Are you living with someone who is actively abusing and addicted to drugs? If so, you’re not alone. According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older — 9.4 percent of the population — had used an illicit drug in the past month“. That means that millions of American households include one or more people who struggle with substance abuse issues.
Understand The Basics of Drug Addiction
Whether your roommate, spouse, child, or other family member is addicted to alcohol, prescription medications, street drugs, or a combination of substances, the effects that their addiction can have on your household are all strikingly similar.
Substance abuse is a serious illness that affects all aspects of a person’s life – their interpersonal relationships, how they function at school or work, and what happens in their home. This is due to the fact that addiction is a complex disease that leads to real, measurable changes within the brain – changes that can significantly alter the addict’s ability to make good decisions, predict consequences, and even feel empathy towards others.
When a person is living in active addiction to drugs or alcohol, they tend to focus all of their energy around sustaining their addiction, even if that means engaging in dangerous or hurtful behaviors that impact the people who are closest to them. It’s common for families who are living with an addict to feel like they have a stranger in their midst – their once loving, trustworthy son, daughter, or wife has become a person they barely recognize.
The Realities of Living With An Addict
As you may have already discovered, living with an addict requires you to change many of your usual routines, habits, and ways of interacting with everyone in your home.
For example, a teenager who is abusing substances may start neglecting the family dog, meaning that you can’t count on him or her to take the dog out for walks every day like they used to. A spouse who previously handled all the family finances may start draining the family bank accounts to support their drug habit, while a roommate might start behaving in odd, irrational ways that can be frightening.
Because the addict will focus all of their attention on sustaining their addiction, they may start to steal from other members of their family, lie about money, and behave in a way that is unpredictable. People who are living with an addict often describe feeling like they are ‘walking on eggshells;’ they never know when the addict will have an emotional outburst, become violent, or even threaten to hurt themselves.
Start By Accepting The Fact That There Is An Addict In Your Family
It’s common for family members to feel a sense of failure, shame, and even personal responsibility when a loved one becomes addicted to drugs, alcohol, or both. While these feelings of embarrassment are real, according to Candace Plattor, Registered Clinical Counsellor and addiction expert, “Coming face-to-face with reality means accepting that parts of your life may be out of control as a result of loving someone who is engaging in addictive behaviors.”
Plattor explains that accepting reality is a critical step for the entire family because denial helps to enable the addict and perpetuate the myth that everything is perfectly fine.
Stop Enabling The Addict
The terms ‘codependent’ and ‘enabling’ are common when dealing with addictions. These words simply mean things that you, as a sober person, may be consciously or unconsciously doing to make abusing alcohol or drugs easier for your loved one. This could include lying for the addict to cover up a car crash they caused, giving them money to buy drugs or anything else you do to try and protect the addict from the natural consequences of their own behaviors.
While it can be tough to identify codependent behaviors, often the best way to help someone with an addiction is to hold them accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, which is why seeking support from others who are in the same situation as you is important. Community-based 12-step fellowship groups such as Nar-Anon offer a safe, supportive environment where you can connect with people in the same situation, while many inpatient treatment centers also offer family groups and counseling programs.
Focus On Your Own Health and Wellness
If you’ve ever flown on a commercial airplane you’ve heard the pre-flight safety briefing directing you to don your oxygen mask before you try to assist others. The same goes for living with an addict. You need to make sure you are safe and healthy in order to protect yourself from the stress that comes with having an addicted person in your home.
Focus on finding time for yourself. This could mean attending regular exercise classes, participating in church services, or simply making sure you are keeping up with your own medical appointments, getting your hair done, and meeting up with your friends.
All too often people who are living with a drug addict find themselves dealing with preventable stress-induced illnesses, sacrificing their career, or giving up on activities they enjoy doing simply because they are constantly trying to prevent the next crisis from happening. This relentless stress can lead to everything from cardiovascular disease to weight gain and even some types of cancers. That’s why self-care is such a critical part of living with an addict.
Need Help? Call Us Today
Living with a drug addict is difficult, but you don’t have to deal with the burden alone. At FHE Health, we use the latest in cutting-edge therapies to treat people dealing with substance abuse, mental health, and dual-diagnosis. Our addiction specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call at 844-299-0618.