Helping a Loved One With an Addiction: Begin With Yourself
When you’re helping a loved one who is struggling with addiction, it’s easy to focus entirely on their needs and well-being. However, dealing with another’s addiction can take a toll on your well-being, which only creates another obstacle to their success. Think about the instructions you hear when flying: “If there is a loss of oxygen pressure in the cabin, put your own mask on before assisting others.”
“You cannot be there for those you love if you are not taking good care of yourself,” says Kelly Rogan, M.S., LSW, LICDC-CS, Family Program Coordinator with TriHealth’s Bethesda Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program. “That’s why it’s important to take advantage of all the resources and professional advice that is available to you.”
When helping a loved one with the disease of addiction, Kelly recommends these basics of self-care:
- Learn about recovery and put the principles to practice in your own life. Don’t start with the addict.
- Attend meetings for community support such as Al-Anon, NarAnon, and OPEN Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Meeting locations can be found online and are plentiful in the Greater Cincinnati area.
- Seek counseling for yourself, to help you cope with the stress and anxiety of helping your loved one.
- Don’t take things personally and remember the Four C’s—you didn’t Cause it, can’t Control it, can’t Cure it, but you can Cope. You will learn more about these principles if you attend Al-Anon or NarAnon meetings.
- Talk with trusted friends and family—don’t let your fear of being judged keep you from being honest. If someone judges, you’ve just been given information about who your true friends are. More often than not, you will find they have someone in their life who has been affected too, and your willingness to be vulnerable creates a deeper connection than before.
- Learn some mindfulness practices to help keep you centered and calm when life feels unmanageable. For example, paying attention to each breath as you inhale and exhale will calm you down. There are many mindfulness apps that you can try and find one that works for you.
- The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie is a great daily meditation book that can also be purchased as an app on your phone. Just reading a few paragraphs of affirmation and wisdom each day can contribute to your peace of mind.
Remember “One Day at a Time!” When you find your mind racing and you begin obsessing—breathe, call a friend if you can, and know you can handle TODAY—what is right in front of you—here and now!
To speak with a professional from Bethesda Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program, call 513 569 6116. You are not alone!