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Loving Someone with Substance Use Disorder: How to Cope

Loving Someone with Substance Use Disorder: How to Cope

Having a loved one seek treatment for a substance use disorder can feel like a lonely place. The first thing to remember, as cliché as it might sound, is you really are not alone. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) latest (2015) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, in 2015 an estimated 21.7 million people in the US, aged 12 or older, needed substance use treatment.1

As a family member or friend, you play a key role in your loved one’s recovery, encouraging them to live a healthier, sober life. However, it is important to acknowledge how difficult it can be to be the support system for somebody with a substance use disorder and to take proper steps to ensure you are taking care of yourself as well.

Find a Support System of Your Own

There are millions dealing with the pain of substance use disorder, which means there are that many more people whose lives are affected by a loved one who is suffering. There can be a stigma associated with substance use disorders, and it can be an extremely difficult topic to open up to anyone about, let alone strangers. However, finding a community of individuals who are experiencing something similar is essential to helping yourself heal, and becoming a better support system for your loved one. In the same way, it is important for the individual seeking treatment from substance misuse to engage with others on the same path, it is just as important for you to do the same.

It can be hard to open up about the stress and pain you have endured, watching a loved one with a substance abuse disorder struggle, while you feared for their health and their life. It is an extremely traumatic experience for family and friends, and one you must seek a healthy recovery from. Programs like Al-Anon or Alateen provide non-judgmental communities for family members to talk, educate themselves, and share their experiences with others who have faced similar struggles. This can help alleviate feelings of isolation, and provide guidance in how to communicate and handle situations that others have already experienced.

Set Realistic Expectations

When someone you love finally decides to seek treatment for a substance use disorder, the feelings of relief and hope can be overwhelming. And seeking treatment is a vital first step to living a sober, healthy life. However, it is important to remember that recovery is a process and one that lasts a lifetime.

You must set realistic expectations for your loved one, and understand that magnitude of the life-changing habits they will need to make, in order to avoid feeling disheartened or disappointed when your loved one doesn’t change overnight. Don’t assume that because they are seeking treatment, that means that all his or her issues have been solved. Your loved one will need your help establishing a new, sober life, and for many, it feels like starting from scratch. Patience and understanding go a long way for all involved.

Taking Time to Focus on You

When a family member is dealing with a substance use disorder, it can be all-consuming. Their health and well-being can become your primary focus, and forgetting to put aside time for your own happiness is easy to do. However, making time for yourself is key to maintaining a proper life balance that will allow you to be healthy enough to serve as a support system for your loved one in need. Find something that relaxes you – whether it be yoga, hiking, cooking classes, gardening, reading, going on a bike ride, or any activity or hobby that brings you joy. Self-care does not make you selfish. Making time to unwind is necessary, not just for your health, but also for your ability to be a support system for your loved one.

Stay Fit, Stay Healthy

As stated above, it is important to take care of yourself. In addition to finding time doing something that makes you happy, this also means staying healthy through exercise. Exercise can help reduce stress levels and depression – benefitting both the mind and the body.

Therapy Sessions

Both family and individual therapy sessions can be instrumental in moving forward with the recovery process in a healthy way. Substance use disrupts the family dynamic, and there can be years of pent up resentment and anger. Undergoing family counseling sessions to learn how to communicate and move forward, as well as individual therapy sessions where you feel free to vent and express what you are struggling with, can be beneficial to all.

The journey of recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to be a sustainable source of support, it is imperative that you take proper care of yourself. Acknowledge that by having a loved one with a substance abuse disorder, you yourself have been through an incredibly traumatic experience. Allow yourself time to heal. Re-learn how to communicate and move forward. Find things that make you happy, and make sure you remember to live your own life while your loved one is in treatment. The best way to be there for someone going through recovery is to maintain your own health.

Contact Us Today

To learn more about Life of Purpose, the first primary treatment facility on a college campus in the United States, please contact us at 1-888-787-7673.

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