Self-care: The Art of Loving Yourself When You Also Love an Addict
Addictive behaviour, acting out, one relapse after another – it’s easy to become exhausted when someone you care about is addicted. You only want what’s best for them, but sacrificing yourself isn’t going to make them well. First, you must learn to take care of yourself.
Nothing is more difficult than watching someone close to you destroy their own life with drug or alcohol addiction. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see that they’re only hurting themselves. You may notice their physical health declining, or perhaps you’ve watched them struggle with employment or finances. It’s so clear to you that they’re only hurting themselves.
What’s more difficult to see is how they’re also hurting you. Sure, you may notice that their addictive behaviours lead to conflicts, and that you sometimes end up on the receiving end when they’re acting out. But even so, many loved ones of addicts are the last to see and acknowledge what this toxic relationship is doing to them.
Self-care is an intrinsic part of the human experience. We may be social creatures who thrive on relationships, but at the end of the day, we have to take care of ourselves first. But when you genuinely love an addict, you may find yourself loving and caring for them at your own expense.
Learning to Care for Yourself First
Selflessness may feel like a virtue, but it often plays out more like martyrdom. Pouring all of your love, care and attention into another person will ultimately leave you dejected and broken. On a long enough timeline, you’ll have nothing left to give at all. In that light, truly caring for another person requires that you care for yourself first.
This is especially true when someone you care about routinely abuses drugs or alcohol. Taking care of yourself first will enable you to better care for them. But there will be times when your self-care simply has to take precedence.
Here are five healthy habits to practise when you love an addict:
Self-care Tip #1: Take Care of Your Physical Health.
Self-sacrifice seems noble, but only leaves you feeling worn-down and depleted in the end. When there’s an addict in your life, you have to work extra hard to ensure you remain physically healthy. Take periodic self-inventory to ensure that you’re getting enough rest, and never underestimate the importance of eating healthy and staying hydrated. You’ll be surprised how quickly these healthy habits fall by the wayside when you’re completely focused on being an addict’s caregiver.
Self-care Tip #2: Tell It How It Is.
Watching your loved one continue to struggle and act out can be exhausting. It can also become a source of shame. You may even start to confuse their shortcomings with your own. That’s why it’s important to make a habit of being honest with yourself and others. Resist the urge to lie to others in order to cover up your loved one’s mistakes and misdeeds. It’s not your responsibility to lie for them, and doing so will only wear you down alongside them.
Self-care Tip #3: Know (and Enforce) Your Boundaries.
Part of learning to tell it how it is involves drawing hard lines between yourself and your loved one. Their failings are their own, not yours. This means that you’re not responsible for every aspect of their life. You can show them that you care, but this doesn’t mean that you have to clean up after them or cater endlessly to their every whim.
While it’s undeniably difficult, one of the most important things you can do for your self-interest is to learn how to say ‘no’ to someone you love. In fact, there are times when you’ll be obliged to say ‘no’ – especially when it’s clear to you that their behaviour is going to harm them, lead to relapse or otherwise undo the good in their lives.
Self-care Tip #4: Take Time for Yourself.
When there’s an addict in your life, it’s all too easy to find yourself caught up in their welfare. You’re constantly cleaning up after them, making excuses for them, chiding them into better behaviour and otherwise exhausting yourself. You need time to pursue life’s simple pleasures – to escape the confines of that stressful relationship. Make a point of taking time for things you enjoy, whether that’s reading a book, enjoying a night out with friends or simply meditating in a quiet moment. Do this intentionally and as frequently as you can. Your own mental health depends on it.
Self-care Tip #5: Get Help.
When someone we love is destroying their life with drugs or alcohol, all we want is for them to get help. Of course, we can’t force them to seek help – let alone to want it. But what we can do is get help for ourselves, whether this means reaching out to friends and family, joining a fellowship for families of addicts or enrolling in therapy.
At The Cabin Singapore, we understand that addiction is a family disease, and it’s not just the addict who suffers. If you’re struggling with self-care, we’re here for you – even if your loved one isn’t on board yet. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.