According to data from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, over 22 million Americans use illegal drugs, and of that number, nearly half admit to driving under the influence. Drug and alcohol use is not something that affects a lonely few. It’s a widespread problem that affects people of all ages, backgrounds, education levels and socioeconomic statuses. And, addiction never affects just the addict. It has a significant impact on the addict’s friends, family, coworkers and neighbors, too.
What’s troubling is the fact that addiction is still widely misunderstood, and this leads to much confusion when dealing with the disease. Many families waste precious months or years denying an addiction. Others aren’t sure where to go for help. Sadly, many people still consider addiction a weakness. In actuality, addiction is a brain disease that requires lifelong attention in the form of smart decisions, supportive family and friends and alternative therapies.
If you are involved in a relationship with someone who has an addiction, you know firsthand the many ways that your relationship is compromised. Here are some of the ways that addiction may be affecting you and what you can do about it.
You feel a loss of control.
It’s likely that the addict you love today is not the person you fell in love with. They may do things that hurt you, such as lying or stealing. The natural thing to do is to try to regain control. You may give them ultimatums or make empty threats. No matter what you throw on the table, the fact is that you can’t control what the addict does.
Feeling a loss of control is difficult, and you may find yourself trying to control other people or situations in your life. There is no simple solution to dealing with these emotions, but what you can do is seek therapy and support for yourself. You may feel hopeless some days, but the truth is that no one has control over another.
You deal with increased anxiety.
When your spouse doesn’t come home for several days or your adult daughter doesn’t take care of her basic needs, it’s not surprising that you would become anxious. You may not be able to sleep at night anymore, and you may spend your days consumed in worry. The families of addicts often admit that they fear their loved one’s death from an overdose or reckless behavior. Living this kind of life is emotionally and physically exhausting.
By speaking with a professional counselor or therapist, you can learn helpful techniques for dealing with this anxiety and getting your mind to focus on more positive thoughts and energy. Support groups are also helpful, as you can find comfort in how others deal with the same worries.
You spend your time correcting mistakes.
When you see that your addicted family member isn’t doing what is expected of them, you may try to correct these problems. This is commonly done to cover up the severity of an addiction either because you don’t want others to know, or you feel badly that the addict let someone else down. But trying to appease everyone is only going to stress you out further and avoid your addicted family member from owning up to their problem.
You’ve probably heard about enabling your loved one, and correcting their mistakes is a perfect example of this. The more you brush these problems under the table, the more you are allowing the behavior to continue. Learn about the signs of enabling and get help in stopping them as soon as possible. One easy way to start is by focusing on your own actions and leaving the addict’s mistakes for them to handle.
You forget to take care of yourself.
When you fixate on the behaviors of the addict, you can easily lose touch with your own needs. Many family members admit they neglect their own needs because they are so focused on their loved one. Other people need you, perhaps your children, parents or spouse. You can’t give all your attention to the addict. This will end up damaging your other relationships and put your own emotional and physical health at stake.
Each day, make it a priority to eat healthy foods, even if you can only eat a little. Make time for physical activity of some sort, such as a walk after dinner or a jog through the forest preserve. This time to connect with yourself and nature is invaluable. Make sleep a priority, too, as you need your energy to get through your days. And of course, find time to do something you love each day. Life will go on whether your loved one uses or not, so you can’t let yourself die, too.
Addiction never affects just the addict. If you have a relationship with an addicted person, you know just how real addiction as a disease is. Help is available, and sobriety is reachable. Call The River Source at 1-866-770-1236 to learn about our unique, holistic approach to treating chemical addictions.