In family help part two, we discussed ways to care for a loved one struggling with addiction. In Part 3, we will continue to focus on helping them; but more importantly, we will focus on how to care for ourselves during this difficult struggle. This is a struggle that can last from a few months to possibly a lifetime. So how do we survive, persevere, and preserve our own sanity while a loved one struggles?
First, we need the help of others. This help can come from support groups like Al-Anon, family counseling, individual therapy, church groups, family, and friends. Secondly, we need to accept that our loved one is sick. We may often hear that we need to “detach with love.” What does this mean? This means we detach from the illness, not our loved one. We accept their illness; we learn to not re-act in anger; we learn that we have no control, nor did we cause this illness. We learn that this illness has a strong strangle-hold on our loved one. The hardest thing about detaching is the guilt that comes with it. This is what is best for everyone which is the exact opposite of the quick fix that living in addiction brings. Part of us wants to take care of our loved one which makes it very hard not to enable them and contribute in unhealthy ways, such as, giving them money, rescuing, saving, lecturing, begging, pleading, and sending mixed messages, “get out,” “come back home.”
Germaine Clarno, LCSW, CADC, runs a family support group for families whose loved ones struggle with addictions, uses the analogy “O’Hare Head” to describe the lives of those caught up with their loved ones’ addictions. “O’Hare Head” is being in the midst of the chaos like an airport with no air-traffic controllers in the tower. There is no peace or serenity in the families’ life. She encourages families to come for support to a meeting where they learn to get air traffic controllers back in the tower. They learn to set healthy boundaries and take care of themselves.
Ways to care for oneself:
- Take care of the physical self by eating healthy comfort foods, getting some exercise – take a nice peaceful walk in nature, get good sleep and keep hydrated with water.
- Schedule some fun activities– this gives hope and purpose.
- Find fun and free activities to do, especially if helping your loved one has stretched you financially. See what the library, park district, or community centers have to offer; be out in nature, or go on a picnic.
- Engage in spiritual practices and do stress relief exercises through prayer, meditation, religious functions, and book studies; find a positive mentor who writes a daily blog.
- Help others; volunteer somewhere – this takes the focus off our own struggle.
- Engage in creative arts or sports that you and your family enjoy.
- Focus on gratitude. Count your blessings each morning and evening and write them down. Keeping a gratitude journal or notebook helps you see life in a positive light. It also gives you hope on the tough days.
Dealing with a loved one who struggles with addiction is a life-changing experience, but that doesn’t mean your life will be horrible and forever ruined. Many people grow and become stronger, more compassionate people through this experience. If you are really struggling and need help finding a way through this difficult experience, please do not hesitate to call us at Village Counseling Center. One of our trained professional counselors can assist you on your journey and help you find hope and peace for a better life.