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“Addiction is a family disease. One person may use, but the whole family suffers.” — Shelly Lewis
Research has shown that families play a significant role in the recovery of an addict. However, these family members must also focus on their personal ability to heal.
Although the path to recovery can be one of heartbreak and trauma, once your loved one has taken this critical step, it’s imperative that you not only support their journey, but also your own well-being.
To do so, you must first give yourself permission to step back and look after yourself. After all, the more stable and prepared you are for your loved one’s return, the better.
If your loved one has agreed to seek treatment, you’re likely feeling a wave of emotions. Of course, relief is common, followed by everything from overwhelming happiness to fear.
In order to support your own ability to heal, be mindful of the following ten tips.
Like any disorder, the better you understand it, the better prepared you are to support those in-need. This can provide you with greater peace-of-mind, which is incredibly powerful.
As you learn more about addiction, understanding the role of brain chemistry and other core variables, you can begin to release negative emotions associated with your loved one’s past. As you begin to let go of your anger, you can focus on healing.
Seek online resources, as well as books about the chemistry of addiction. Whenever possible, also attend family events and other learning opportunities offered by your loved one’s treatment center.
Living with an alcoholic creates unique challenges that others may not fully understand. The level of dysfunction that can occur often impacts a family’s ability to communicate and unfortunately, this can cause long-term consequences.
Seek a community program that provides a safe, judgement-free environment. This will allow you to discuss your experiences and learn from others impacted by alcoholism and addiction. The goal here is to feel less isolated, yet more motivated to heal.
You have likely been struck with worry and fear for so long, you have pushed all meaningful activities aside. Now that your loved one has professional support, focus on something that is both relaxing and fulfilling.
Whether that mean gardening more, crafting, or volunteering in your community, it’s important to focus on your mental health and personal recovery.
Regular exercise and proper nutrition are imperative for optimal well-being. This will naturally help improve your mental health, encouraging the release of “feel good” brain chemicals. By incorporating healthier eating habits now, you can also support your loved one when they come home from treatment.
Family therapy is the perfect time to clear the air in a supportive, professional setting. “Blame games” can cripple families, threatening not one your loved one’s sobriety, but also your own quality of life. These sessions can help break down walls of guilt, anger, and shame, so that all parties can move forward in a more positive, healthy direction.
Often, family members and spouses unknowingly find themselves in a codependent relationship, one that damages both parties. Although you may show love and compassion, you may also enable your loved one’s alcoholism.
If you require assistance with this step, seek advice from your family therapist. They will often tell you to set clear boundaries. You’ll also want to begin putting your feelings and needs first.
Whether your loved one lived with you or not, you are likely used to many sleepless nights. Quality sleep is critical for your long-term health. In fact, research suggests that those who get only 4.5 hours of sleep/night for one week, experience high levels of stress, sadness, anger, and mental exhaustion. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it.
This is your opportunity to learn something that has always interested you. Perhaps you always wanted to learn to play the piano? Maybe you’re interested in woodworking? Whatever your untapped passion is, it’s time for you to do something that’s personally rewarding.
Your friends and family may have varying opinions and feelings when it comes to your loved one’s recovery. However, you should still welcome them into your life and personal healing process. You may even be an inspiration to them, becoming your family’s guiding light.
For some, becoming an advocate can be incredibly rewarding. You can help other families who have begun to lose hope, impacting the lives of many. This is a brave step to take, as you speak up on behalf of alcoholics and their loved ones.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to not feel guilty about caring for yourself. Remember, the better prepared and level-headed you are, will make all the difference in regard to your loved one’s long-term recovery.