When someone in your family suffers from addiction, it’s not just the addict who hurts. Family, friends, spouses and even co-workers are deeply impacted by this disease. It can feel like it has taken over your life, even though you aren’t the one using drugs or drinking. And it often happens before you even realize it.
1. You feel exhausted
- You spend most of your time and energy on your loved one. You worry about them all the time and you constantly brainstorm how to help them. You spend so much time managing their addiction that it’s become the dominant force in your life; you run interference with their job, you give rides and money, and you pick up the pieces when everything falls apart. Other relationships suffer because you are too tired to even connect with friends and loved ones. It’s called caretaking, and it prevents you from taking care of yourself.
2. Your biggest fear is losing them
- You may have known other addicts who passed away because of their disease, and you’ve probably noticed your loved one getting worse over time. It seems like no matter what you do, they keep using and you’re so afraid of what could happen. The fear that they will lose their life overwhelms you.
3. It feels like you`re grieving
- Many people who have gone through our family programs say that addiction in the family is like “death without a body.” But we tend not to acknowledge this grief because they are still alive. But you probably haven’t been able to celebrate special occasions, have family get-togethers or talk about your loved one with others. The happy family has disappeared and you grieve for it.
4. You feel guilty and ashamed
- “How did this happen to my family? Is it my fault? What could I have done to prevent this?” These are the questions you ask yourself all the time. And you keep a lot of secrets because you don’t want the rest of the world to know what’s happening in your home. There is a huge amount of shame, guilt, self-blame and a loss of self-esteem.
5. You are starting to isolate
- You have become so wrapped up in the fear, guilt and exhaustion that you have begun to disengage in other parts of your life. It feels impossible to give your all to work, social activities and other relationships, because there just isn’t anything left to give. You are focused on the addict, and everything else has just started to fall to the wayside.
If you can relate to most of the scenarios, it might be time to get some help for yourself. Addiction doesn’t have to run your life anymore. Look for a local Al-Anon group to meet some others who are in the same situation as you. You could also participate in one of our family programs; we provide both education on addiction as well as therapy and coping skills to deal with the overwhelming emotions. You could even just give us a call – our family counsellors are happy to talk with you, and help you decide the best course of action for your situation. Whatever you do, it’s important to acknowledge the affect addiction has had, so that you can start to take care of yourself.