Beaten Down and Worn Out
You know you’re the wife (husband/sister/brother/child/father/mother) of a person with an addiction if: your self confidence is depleted, your sense of control is non-existent or your sense of accomplishment is gone.
Perhaps you feel as is if the person you once were is lost, and you have become someone you don’t recognize (and may not like very much). Maybe you fear you are stuck with this new persona for the rest of your life. It is very common for the family members of a person with alcohol or drug problems to feel less confident, out of control and ineffective. These are a few of the costs of addiction.
This is important, so it is worth repeating. Loss of self confidence, a sense of not being effective in your life, feelings of guilt, shame, anger and other negative emotions are normal reactions that family members experience in the face of addiction. These are costs family members pay for their loved ones’ addiction.
It’s Not Your Fault
It is not your fault that your son drinks – that your husband smokes weed – that your granddaughter uses Oxy. It can be tough to believe that you are not at fault for your loved one’s addiction. After all, you’ve probably heard them say things like, “If you would just get off my back, I wouldn’t drink so much.” But – take a moment to really think about your loved one’s drinking or drug use…
Did you want your loved one to become addicted?
Did you make him/her drink?
Do you make him/her drink now?
Did everyone else in your life become addicted to alcohol or drugs?
Did you want alcohol or drugs to become another person in your family?
Of course not!! You did not cause your loved one’s addiction and you do not cause your loved one to drink or use drugs. Although a person with an addiction has difficulty stopping or cutting back on the use of his/her substance of choice, you did not cause these difficulties – you do not cause these difficulties to continue. Addiction is a tricky phenomenon and one that we are still working to understand, but rest assured that there has been no research to say that family members cause addiction.
Even if you don’t believe that you are not to blame for your loved one’s addiction, think about this: how is blaming yourself helping you or your loved one? Does it motivate you to help your loved one or to take care of yourself? Is this self-blame helpful or does it just keep you stuck in the cycle of your loved one’s addiction? Even if you are not able to accept that you are not to blame for your loved one’s addiction (which you are not responsible for), blaming yourself has probably not been an effective strategy, or an enjoyable way to live.
You Are Not to Blame, But You Are Not Powerless
Not accepting responsibility for your loved one’s drinking is not the same as being powerless. If you didn’t cause or want your loved one to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, then it’s time to stop paying for their problems with your time, energy, health, and emotional well-being.
While you did not cause your loved one to drink and are not responsible for his/her addiction, there are things you can do to help your loved one and take back your life from his/her addiction.
- The first step in taking back your power from your loved one’s addiction is to give yourself a break – stop blaming yourself and assuming responsibility for their addiction.
- The second step is to realize that you are a capable and worthwhile person who deserves to have a life that isn’t dictated by another person’s addiction.
It’s time to put you in charge of your life, not your loved one’s addiction. You are NOT to blame, but you are not powerless to your loved one’s addiction and there are things you can do to take back your life.
Taking Back Your Life Means Taking Care of Yourself
The first thing you can do to take back your life and reclaim your power from your loved one’s addiction is self-care. You’ve probably taken care of your addicted loved one and others for a long time. There is nothing wrong with caring for others; however, it is pretty common that when addiction becomes a part of the family, self-care goes out the window.
Time, energy, emotional and financial resources are put toward the loved one with an addiction, which is understandable. But, these resources are typically finite; family members often extend these resources to everyone but themselves.
The importance of self-care cannot be understated. The very act of caring for yourself puts you in charge of your life, not your husband’s or son’s addiction. Self-care is about refilling the stores of your emotional and physical health to improve your life AND to make you a more effective caregiver to others.
Think about when you provide the best care. Is it…
when you are well-rested?
after you get off the phone with a supportive friend?
after you exercise?
Think about when you’ve acted in ways that are counter to your values as a caregiver. Were these times when you were…
rundown or sick?
tired from getting too little sleep?
not making time to see your friends?
unable to engage in activities that you enjoy?
Self-care is not only essential for your well-being, but for you to be the type of family member you want to be. As stated earlier, our emotional resources are finite. We need to do things that we enjoy, take care of our bodies, take care of our psyches and engage in things that build our confidence to refill our emotional resources.
If you find it difficult to identify self-care activities or have trouble following through with self-care, take a few minutes to read our post on self-care; it includes ideas and links to resources on taking care of every aspect of yourself.
Think about how your life would be different if you used the same time, energy and resources to take care of you as you generally do taking care of your daughter, son , husband or wife!
Consider this for a minute and leave a comment here about some ways you can begin taking care of yourself today.
Check out the next post in this series Motivate Your Loved One Without Nagging, Threatening or Blaming: Changing Your Behavior