The effects of addictions on a loved one

The first person to suspect there is an issue in this area, is usually a family member or a close friend. Have you ever wondered what tolls it takes on the person or loved ones of the user? Do you have a picture in mind? 

Addiction causes a ripple effect on our loved ones, friends and community. When we are dealing with someone else’s addiction whether that’s our son, daughter, spouse, or even close friend we become hyper-focus on the user’s needs and we try to help them. But soon, we find ourselves investing too much time and energy in helping them or taking care of them, by reading and researching ways to help. Before you know it, you have stopped taking care of yourself, and gradually anxiety or depression sets in. 

It is not uncommon for the users’ loved ones to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. The situation is such that you feel hopeful one day and hopeless the next. Do not underestimate the emotional toll of this roller coaster ride you are in. Some people even become controlling in this situation, where they feel a lack of control and are surrounded by chaos. Trying to deal with your situation and the user can be very difficult on your own, no matter how much you love them. Recognizing your need for support is paramount, to help you regain balance and cope better. Why? You may ask! Is it important for me to get help when he or she is the one who is struggling with addiction? 

The answer is simple….. You are the one with the awareness that alcohol/drug use is affecting both you and the person using it. You may have also become more aware of its impact on other important areas of life such as finances, relationships, etc. You are trying to change a situation in which the person using may not be ready for help. You have tried everything to improve the situation, from nagging to threatening but nothing seems to work. Now, you hardly recognize the person you have become. We know you do what you do because you love this person and want to be there for them. Deep down you know carrying on this way is not helping and the pain you feel is too much! So, you wonder if there is another way to deal with this…. Yes, there is! 

Let’s use a worldwide recognizable analogy here… In an emergency, when you are on a plane you’re told to put your oxygen mask on first before you help someone else with theirs. Similarly, our oxygen mask in this instance is taking better care of ourselves so we can cope better with our stressful situations. There are many dimensions of self-care such as physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual, etc. When we are feeling good or happy, we have more clarity and can manage problems easier. Our perspective changes and so does the way we handle things. When we are no longer the problem, in the way we interact with our loved one because of their use, then our loved one is left wondering about his/her own sufferings. Although the situation is complex, the change in our interaction with them creates a space for the person to focus on the actual problem. Which is, the addiction or the problematic behavior. Inadvertently, we also create an opportunity where we are not used as excuses anymore for the problem because of our behaviors such as anger outbursts, resentment, and so on.

Our hope in writing this article is to help you make sense of the situation you are in and to offer solace that with support anything can be overcome. 

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world” even when that world means only your world, your life, your home….. 

Written in partnership with Rapidhealth