Take Care of Yourself Through A Loved Ones Addiction
Learn to take care of yourself first! You are no good to others if you neglect to put your own life jacket on when the boat is sinking. It is important to know and understand how you have been impacted by the addiction and/or untreated mental health issues so that your own “stuff” does not get in the way of your attempt to help. Learn self-care tools and skills and practice applying them
Expand your knowledge of the problem: Learn all you can about addiction and/or the mental health issue. Read books, search the web and attend lectures and groups.
Seek Support from like-minded individuals. Those who have or are experiencing similar difficulties will have compassion and understanding and be less apt to ill advise. This support can be found in the 12 step fellowship such as Ala-non or Families Anonymous or in local community outreach groups such as Families Helping Families.
Acknowledge and work through your own emotional pain. It is imperative that you learn how to self-regulate: To take responsibility for your own feelings and reactions. This is a process of learning to respond rather than react. We lose the ability to be effective when we are reacting to others with the toxicity of our emotions such as hostility, judgment, hurt, anger, resentment, etc.
Learn all you can about enabling: It is important to understand that you did not cause your loved-ones problem but that you can inadvertently contribute to it. Identify what, if anything, you have been doing to contribute to it… for example: paying bills, fines, rent; bailing out of jail; providing a place to live and not requiring a financial contribution; making excuses and lying for them; giving in to their demands when you really don’t want to. This list could go on and on as each situation is different but I’m sure you get the point. You will find that often your enabling behaviors primarily stem from false hope (your attempt at remaining hopeful) and your need to tame your fears and guilt. Once you have identified your specific enabling behaviors make a commitment to stop them and seek the support you need to assist in this process.
Learn to set and follow through with healthy boundaries: First and foremost self-care requires the ability to set boundaries. Boundaries are to protect you and take care of your needs, not to control your loved-one. This usually is a process of trial and error and takes consistent practice. Boundaries are not threats, but rather limits that you are resolved to enforce and follow through with regardless of your loved-ones reaction and/or your feelings about setting the boundary or limit. Once we have determined our limits and boundaries we need to have a plan for reinforcing them if they are violated. It does more harm for both you and your loved-one to set a boundary that you are not prepared to follow through with. You learn that you can’t trust yourself and feel residual feelings of being taken advantage of when your loved-one does not respect your boundary. And your loved-one continues to receive the message that it is okay to take you for granted.
Allow for natural consequences to occur. Once we disengage from our enabling behaviors our loved- one can begin experiencing the natural consequences of his/her behavior and choices. We become one less person in the way of our loved-ones potential for experiencing a natural “bottom”.
Utilize the services of a professional. The support we receive from community programs is priceless but sometimes we need additional help to overcome the impact of our/ and our loved-ones destructive and patterned behavior. Our loved-one may be in crisis and we are not comfortable with the potential risks of waiting for a natural bottom to occur. If you use an interventionist be sure and employ one who offers case management and monitoring along with the intervention. Often, a 1 time intervention is looked upon as an event and can do more harm than good. Intervention, done correctly and responsibly, is a process utilized (usually over a one year period) to assist the entire family with productively and effectively confronting the addiction/mental health issues and the impact on family. This one year period provides professional support, recovery support and guidance while both you and your loved-one develop recovery skills, work through conflict and learn to engage a healing process.