Advice For Caregivers Looking After An Addicted Loved One

Are you a caregiver for an addicted loved one?

It might be somebody you live with on a full-time basis, such as a partner, parent, or a child. Or you might live apart but see your loved one on a regular basis to provide physical and emotional support.

Whatever the case, we know it won’t be easy for you. Focusing on their needs will take its emotional toll on you, so for your own needs, as well as to give you the tools to be a better caregiver, you need to think about yourself too.

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You shouldn’t care for your loved one alone

We’re sure you’re great, but you’re not superhuman. All the care your loved one needs shouldn’t come from you alone, as you might experience exhaustion and burnout, and that won’t help anybody. So, ensure you have the support of your doctor for yourself and your addicted loved one. Get in touch with the appropriate therapy and rehabilitation groups if your loved one hasn’t yet been through a course of help. Considering addictive disorders are linked to mental illness, you might also seek help from community support services for people with a disability. And share responsibility for your loved one with other interested parties and family members, giving you the option to follow the next tip.

You need to practice self-care

The demands of your loved one may be many, but without time to yourself, you might become ill and even prone to addictive tendencies yourself. Therefore, find time to care for your mental health, with exercise, sleep, and healthy eating, and do things that relax you and make you happy. Schedule time in the week for yourself, and if your loved one needs full-time support, take this time when they are otherwise engaged in a support group or with another carer. Your life is important, and nobody wants to see you suffer unduly, including your loved one, so look after #1, for the benefit of yourself and those around you.

Attend a support group for caregivers.

It might be a group that is organised by a specific charity or organisation, or it might be an online group, or something that has been set up informally in your local community. Whatever the case, you need to know that you aren’t alone as a caregiver, so meet up with those people who know what you’re going through. The social company will be useful for a start, but you might also draw on the strength and ideas of others to help you in your caregiving role. You might also be a source of help to others, so be prepared to share anything that has made your life easier.

Don’t be afraid of letting go

We know you will do all you can to help your loved one, but when it gets too much for you, it is important to hand over that care to others. Especially when you don’t feel equipped to handle mood changes and lapses back into addictive behaviour, you should call on the assistance of the relevant professionals to take over your caring duties. You or they might have to spend a significant amount of time apart for a while, but that’s okay. Provided they are still getting help, and so long as you aren’t running yourself into the ground, you will both benefit from a little distance.

We hope the advice above was useful to you, but we would love to hear your thoughts. Should you be a caregiver for another, let us know how you have coped, and give us any further advice for the benefit of our readers.

Take care, and thanks for reading.

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5 comments

  1. Josie says:

    Sometimes it can be hard to look after yourself, let alone someone else that has some really big and demanding needs. I am not supporting my loved one with his addiction, sadly he turned me away while he got help. After 7 months, he is no closer to healing, but I am wishing I was able to help him. It’s an honour to be able to help someone you love.

  2. Chris says:

    Well, my family have certainly seen their share of addictive disorders within relations over the years. Unfortunately, one of my cousins let her drinking get out of control when we were younger and had a terrible time getting back on the straight and narrow. 

    The most complicated emotion/feeling for me was our relationship suffering after she had admitted she had a problem. All of a sudden we were both uneasy with one another due to the fact that both of us knew it was now out in the open. Is this a common reaction to addiction?

    • Lynne says:

      Chris yes it can be very awkward when things start coming out into the open but try and think of it as an illness that needs to be managed. So many people just look at me when I say I am an addict and I can see the look of panic as they wonder what an earth to say to me. Give it some time, it will get easier. 

      It is wonderful that she has admitted she has a problem. That is the first step on the road to recovery, without that there is no hope.

  3. Michel says:

    Thank you for this advice, as it is something one never thinks of. Being caregivers you tend to be so focused on caring for your loved one that you tend to forget about yourself.

    Caring for oneself is very important, as if you only focus on the one getting the care, it could quickly lead to burnout and even depression.

    I have seen this with my Mom who used to care for her uncle who was an alcoholic and I could see that it wasn’t easy on her. She refused help and she often had setbacks as she got so exhausted and also suffered from depression.

    It is important to have the backup from groups or professionals who have gone through this so that the caregiver doesn’t feel all alone in her plight.

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