Perhaps one of the most complex, chaotic, and heart-breaking experiences one could be in is loving someone who struggles with addiction.
2020 has heightened the effects of addiction for both the user and the people who care for them. Physical distancing and isolation protocols as well as limited healthcare services during this pandemic have put a vulnerable population at a more vulnerable risk. There have been more overdose deaths compared to COVID-19 cases, and this is not to argue the reality of this pandemic, but it is to shine a light on another crisis our world is facing. BC, alone, recorded 911 overdose deaths between January and July of 2020.
For more info on the impacts of COVID-19 and people struggling with substance use check out this article here.
Standing by while watching your child, your partner, your sibling, or your friend suffer through addiction can take a serious toll on your wellness. The constant battles – pleading, trying to support, and downright begging – with your loved one to stop using drugs or alcohol is exhausting and quite frankly, very sad.
The chaos of addiction is so overwhelming – the lies, the financial struggles, the relationship breakdowns, the constant push and pull of emotions and expectations – these are some of the most intense feelings that come with addiction.
And then there is the added feeling of embarrassment you feel about your loved one’s addiction. Should it become known to others in your life, it’s exhausting! But you put on your brave happy face and continue to exist in the world without anyone knowing how profoundly you might be struggling.
Stop feeling embarrassed, this is not an uncommon issue and there are so many families out there struggling just like you.
Once you release the heaviness of the grief, the sadness, and the hopelessness you feel with someone you trust things don’t seem as unbearable. I can guarantee this. And as you navigate the role of loving and supporting your loved one who is going through addiction, I want you to remember this…
The Three C’s of Recovery & Addiction.
- I did not cause it
- I cannot cure it
- I cannot control it
These three C’s are so important for you to understand and I mean REALLY understand. So I’m going to break it down for you…
1. I DIDN’T CAUSE IT
In no way are YOU the cause of your loved one’s relationship with addiction. We try so hard to make sense of this horrible disease and sometimes find ourselves coming up with stories of our own as a way of explaining how this came to be. But you are not the cause.
And sometimes, our loved one can begin to blame us or others for their drug or alcohol use. But you are not the cause. Understanding that you did not cause this and actually believing this truth, can help your loved one take responsibility for their own addiction.
I am, in no way, disregarding how trauma and experiences can lead to addiction. I absolutely believe that trauma and past experiences can lead to addiction. But I also would like you to consider this…
What happened to your loved one was not their fault, however, managing their life is their responsibility.
2. I CAN’T CURE IT
There is absolutely nothing, I mean nothing, that you can do to cure this disease. It is a disease after all. The brain is heavily affected and impacted by drug and alcohol use that the chemistry of the brain is changed while in active addiction.
I know you want nothing more than to help “cure” your loved one’s addiction. As hard as it is to hear, you need to understand that you cannot cure it. You can, however, support them while maintaining strong boundaries of your own. You can encourage them to seek out professional help such as a treatment program that includes recovery supports and relapse prevention.
3. I CAN’T CONTROL IT
This one is hard. We want to control it. We want to believe that if we stay home with them, or prevent them from accessing money, or take away their phone that all these things we do can somehow control the use of their drug and alcohol. We cannot control it.
Again, we cannot control it.
If our loved one is in active addiction, nothing and I mean nothing we do will control their usage. What we think is “controlling” their substance use is making us a little crazier each day. If someone with addiction wants to use, they will use.
One of the most helpful things that you can do is take care of yourself. Addiction is a family disease; the entire family feels the effects of addiction. We need to be strong and remember the three C’s.
Check out Cecilia’s latest Coffee Talk on “When Someone You Love Struggles With Addiction” to learn more about the ways you can take care of yourself during this difficult time and help your loved one in the process.
And a few more things you can do during this time:
- Seek therapy for yourself
- Write in a journal
- Talk to a supportive and non-judgmental friend
- Join an Al-anon group
- Take a bath
- Talk about it
It is time we reduce the stigma; you do not have anything to be embarrassed about. When we share and talk about these things, we can find the support that we need.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a loved one going through addiction, I encourage you to reach out. Therapists at Eterna (including myself) are happy to answer any questions and support you in whichever way is possible.