No family asks for addiction. No one person chooses to be addicted. Unfortunately, addiction happens, and it knows no bounds. It doesn’t matter if you have all the cards in your future for developing an addiction or none of them; the outcome could end up the same if you experiment with drugs.
If you have a loved one who got hooked on drugs or alcohol, you may be wondering how to pick up the pieces as they return home from treatment. A stay in a residential treatment facility sets a healthy foundation for long-term sobriety, but it isn’t a quick fix. Your loved one will require a lot of support, understanding and tough love – not just today, but forever.
Below are six essential survival tips for living with a recovering addict; a person you love dearly.
1. Learn the difference between “helping” and “enabling.”
It’s understandable that when your loved one returns home, you’re going to want to help them so that they don’t end up in a worse predicament. However, it’s critical that you acknowledge the difference between helping and enabling. By letting your loved one live in your home rent free, driving them places, giving them money and going back on the boundaries you set, you’re actually enabling their harmful behaviors.
Talking with a counselor or therapist can help you set and stick to healthy boundaries. It isn’t easy, but it is the most effective way to help your addicted loved one maintain sobriety while respecting you and your home.
2. Stop trying to fix or control your loved one.
There are some things we have control over in life, but we do not have control over another person’s actions. Once you accept this reality, you can live a life with fewer burdens. If you try to influence everything your loved one does, you will be left feeling exhausted and defeated. All you can do is encourage your loved one to follow their aftercare plan and provide a healthy, supportive environment.
3. Don’t blame yourself or feel guilty.
This is a very common problem for families of addiction. Maybe you feel responsible for your loved one’s addiction so you channel this guilt by giving in to their demands. No matter what the past held, you have to accept that you are not to blame. By feeling guilty, you are not doing yourself or your loved one any favors. Instead, determine how you can change your ways to truly help your addicted loved one stay sober.
4. Don’t give in to manipulation.
As you begin to accept reality and acknowledge the fact that you are not to blame and that you cannot control another person, you will become more aware of manipulative behaviors. You may have allowed yourself to be manipulated in the past, but it’s time to change this.
Be aware that your loved one may try to manipulate you through lying, blaming and guilt tripping. The more you allow yourself to be manipulated, the more manipulative your loved one will become. Identify manipulative behaviors and stand your ground. Your loved one needs to see that they won’t get their way with you.
5. Take care of yourself – it does not mean you’re selfish.
Families of addicts often find themselves being consumed by their addicted loved one’s behaviors. You can obviously relate, as the time you spend worrying about your loved one, what they’re doing, who they’re with, if they’re being honest and so on can easily take over your own life. But, it’s critical that you care for yourself, too. This is not being selfish.
If you don’t start focusing on yourself, you will become exhausted and depleted. In fact, you may be there already. Take time to do the things you enjoy. Eat healthy, get rest and exercise. Remember, you can’t control another person, so stop trying. You can only control yourself.
6. Reach out for help early on.
It’s extremely rare for an addict to seek addiction rehab, return home and have a normal life. There is much healing that needs to take place, and there will be many emotions from everyone that are perfectly normal – worry, frustration, anxiety, etc. Keep your expectations realistic, and know that you are not alone.
Your loved one will need to follow their aftercare plan that includes attending 12-step meetings and counseling. There are support groups for the families of addicts as well, such as Nar-Anon and Al-Anon. These meetings are wonderful because no one passes judgement or forces their own coping strategies on each other. They are simply groups of people available to support one another.