Addiction doesn’t just impact the person struggling with substance abuse; it affects the people who love them. Many people in active addiction make decisions that put their loved one’s financial and emotional health at risk. They engage in malicious activities and put their addiction ahead of relationships.
Unfortunately, recovery isn’t always a linear journey. If you are the support person or spouse of someone facing alcohol or drug addiction, prioritize these self-care tips.
Seek Informed Support
During treatment and recovery, it can feel like the person experiencing alcoholism or drug addiction is the focal point. It’s necessary for your loved one to focus on their recovery. However, this doesn’t mean that you must go without support during this challenging time. There are plenty of resources for helping alcoholic-adjacent loved ones and the families of those with a drug dependency.
Having a support network is essential, as this experience can feel isolating. However, you may find that your friends and family members don’t understand or can’t withhold judgment. Your decision to stay with a loved one and see them through treatment is yours and yours alone. Unless someone has walked a similar path, they won’t be able to provide informed advice or unbiased feedback.
Consider talking to a professional for one-on-one support and reaching out to a group meeting for family members. Click here to find a support group if you are affected by your loved one’s addiction. This is especially important if you share children with the individual.
Set Strong Boundaries
People undergoing addiction treatment are encouraged to set firm boundaries with themselves and others. Those in caregiver or support roles are encouraged to do the same.
If you choose to support your loved one during their recovery, your priority will be ensuring they get to appointments and creating a safe environment. However, it’s also essential to ensure you feel safe and comfortable. For example, if your partner’s addiction led to financial instability, you might require control over the finances to ensure you continue to have a place to live.
You might also have a clear line in the sand about what’s unacceptable, such as violence or substance use in the home. Being supportive as they navigate this journey is integral, but not at the cost of putting your safety and security at risk.
Develop a Response Plan
Developing a response plan is a part of the treatment process. Often referred to as a relapse prevention plan, the response plan informs everyone in the household of the triggers and signs of relapse risk. This plan should be tailored to the individual, outlining certain events or people that could trigger a relapse response, tips for managing cravings, stress management skills, and important contact information.
It’s important for both the individual and support people to have access to this information. Sometimes, a person facing addiction isn’t aware of their early symptoms of a potential relapse or feels shame about their cravings. A support person or spouse can’t control whether a person relapses or not, but they can intervene, highlight their concerns, and contact key team members on the response plan.
You may also decide to have a personal response plan if a relapse occurs. What will you do? Where will you go? Who will you inform? Having these steps outlined in your mind can help create comfort and security while managing stress.
Make Time for Yourself
Loving someone with an addiction is a heavy experience. You may find yourself attending frequent meetings or appointments as you support their recovery process. In many cases, one spouse becomes the primary caregiver for the children as well. Add in work and other commitments, and finding a moment to breathe may seem impossible.
Even though making time for yourself can be difficult, it’s necessary. Reach out to other support people to provide respite so you can take a break and engage in self-care. If your spouse is in a closed AA or NA meeting, use that time to take a walk or read a book. If you have paid sick days at work, take one and spend it doing something you love.
If your resources are limited, consider how you can find micro-moments throughout the day. Maybe you can get up before everyone and drink your coffee outside. Maybe you can take 10 minutes to journal before bed. Try scheduling these moments into your day like an appointment.
Move Your Body
Movement is one of the best forms of self-care. Exercise releases endorphins which provide mood-boosting effects to offset the stress and emotional turmoil you’re likely facing. Movement doesn’t require a structured workout program; you can set a timer and dance for 10 minutes if that’s what brings you joy.
Your partner or loved one may also use movement to aid in their recovery process. This could be an opportunity to share a common passion and reconnect.
Mindfulness practices can help you process trauma, move past big emotions, and reduce stress. These activities could include:
- Unplugged reflection time
- Body scans
- Gratitude practice
- Time spent in nature
- Positive visualization
The goal is to find a healthy way to manage and reduce stress so you can process your emotions, sleep, and think better.
Find a Creative Outlet
Art therapy has been proven to have positive effects on mental health disorders, addiction treatment, and stress management. Finding a creative outlet that works for you allows you to find your flow and focus on the joy of creating something new and beautiful. If you have a creative activity you already love, you’re well on your way.
If you’re not a creative person and don’t know where to start, think outside the artistic box. Coloring, doodling, writing, listening to music, doing puzzles— the options are endless. Challenge yourself to try something new by enrolling in a class or workshop.
Give Yourself Grace
Finally, give yourself some grace. Many spouses and loved ones discover that they’ve unintentionally enabled addictive behaviors. It’s common to feel a sense of guilt or failure when your loved one has a substance use disorder.
It’s not your fault. You can’t control someone else’s actions. Give yourself some grace.
Practicing self-care is more than bubble baths and alone time— especially when supporting someone with an addiction. Use this guide to implement practical and compassionate forms of self-care in your life.