Being a caregiver is a struggle
Caring for someone who is using drugs and alcohol is hard. It just is. This may be a new problem you are facing or perhaps you have been enduring this for years. The good news is that you haven’t given up on them; if you had you would not be reading this.
Whether the person you care for is your child, your roommate, your family member or your spouse, they need your support. People rarely get better alone. The person you are caring for may or may not acknowledge your support, but they probably feel it and appreciate it, even if they can’t express it right now.
The stigma of alcohol and drug use
Even now, there continues to be a significant stigma surrounding drug and alcohol use. This often makes it harder on caregivers. When we care for someone due to cancer or a car accident, we often receive a lot of additional support. People offer to help, they might bring food, they send cards. However, when the issues are drugs and alcohol, that additional support is not always there. Therefore, caring for someone with these struggles can be an isolating experience.
You may feel like it is your fault
Sometimes you may feel their substance use is your fault. It can be normal to feel this way, but their use is not your fault. There are numerous and complex reasons why people use and then continue to use. Taking responsibility for their use or addiction will likely increase feelings of guilt or shame you may experience. Most importantly, these feelings will not help you, nor will they help your loved one.
Caregivers often feel helpless
Watching someone cause harm to themselves and their lives is incredibly painful. I believe we all wish there was a magic wand that could make our loved ones safe and healthy. The reality is the most helpful thing we can do is not give up on them. Very rarely do people get better alone, in isolation without support. You deserve support too and this can be key to continuing to manage your own fears, anger and feelings of helplessness.
Does tough love work?
The short answer, is no, not really. Usually “tough love” is a response to feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by past efforts not working. For the person in your life with alcohol and drug problems, this tough love approach will often feel like punishment or rejection. Feelings of rejection tend to make us feel worse and thus more likely to use.
How can I help my loved one with substance use issues?
Support them and care for them, but in a way that respects and honors your values and your boundaries. This makes your choices about you, not about what you think will change them.
How can Substance Use Therapy help me as a caregiver?
In addition to the stress of caring for someone struggling, you likely have other areas of your life that you would like to focus on. Exploring ways to get your own needs met, while supporting your loved one in a way that respects your beliefs and boundaries is something we can work on together. You don’t have to face this alone.