September is National Recovery Month, and with the opioid crisis making headlines on a regular basis, it’s important to bring this subject more into the spotlight.
Every September, SAMHSA sponsors Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.
As someone in recovery myself, I spend a good deal of time making sure that others know that it is a disease that does not discriminate and that recovery is possible if you truly want it. I’ve been in recovery for over eight years and it’s something very close to my heart.
There has been a lot said about addiction (although the more the better in my opinion!), but it’s also important to talk about how those close to addicts should deal with the situation. It can be hard for someone who is not an addict to understand addiction and for them to know what actions are appropriate (or not). Here are some of the most important pieces to understand if you are someone impacted by addiction.
It’s not your fault
A lot of friends and family members often take the stress of addiction on themselves by thinking that they could have done more, seen something, or done something differently.
A person’s addiction is not your fault, just like it’s not their fault. Addiction is a disease that should be treated as one. Most people don’t sit around considering someone else’s cancer or high blood pressure diagnosis their fault.
Understand that none of it is your fault or your responsibility. If recovery is what the addict wants, it’s his or her responsibility to get it.
Addicts won’t change unless they’re ready
If you’ve ever listened to stories of recovering addicts, you’ll often hear about their “rock bottom.” This is the lowest point in their addiction and the point where they decide they can’t live that way anymore.
The tough thing about recovery is that everyone is different. Everyone has a different pain threshold and a different breaking point. You can’t predict when a person will hit that bottom and things that you’d expect to be that life-changing point simply aren’t. Unfortunately, not everyone hits theirs before their addiction brings them down for good.
This is why some people have multiple attempts at rehab, periods of relapse, and staying clean and sober can be difficult. It’s frustrating and often devastating to watch someone you care about cycle through their own pain and destruction. You want to help. You want to fix it, but unfortunately, this is a job for that person to do on his or her own.
Take care of yourself
This is one of the hardest things to conceptualize if someone you care about is in active addiction. As much as you want to help and fix the situation, your own physical, emotional, and mental health is the most important thing.
- Set boundaries
- Make time for yourself
- Attend support groups
- TALK about it
Figure out what YOU need to feel safe and have some peace of mind. If that means limiting your contact with that person, let them know. Stick to that boundary.
Oftentimes, family members will inadvertently end up enabling the addicted person because they don’t want them to get hurt or be in discomfort. They will allow them places to stay, buy alcohol to avoid them driving drunk, and other similar behaviors. Not only does this further the addict’s addictive behavior, but it causes you to spend far more time preoccupied with his or her thoughts and actions and less on your own.
Just like addiction is a selfish disease, so should be the way you deal with it. Your own peace of mind is incredibly important, so as hard as it may be for you to put some distance between you and those people you care about, it’s absolutely necessary. Let them know that you are there for them if they want it, but if you find yourself stressed out or unable to function as you normally would, you may need to take a step back.
Erin Bahadur is a NASM-certified personal trainer, writer, and owner of the blog Erin’s Inside Job, a site dedicated to focusing on physical, emotional, and mental health. She is currently working on an addiction and recovery-based memoir to destigmatize mental health and addiction issues in our society. When she’s not writing, she’s trying out new desserts in Chicago and relaxing with her husband Neil and her dog Donut.