Apr 11, 2024

Coping with a Loved One’s Addiction

Addiction is a disease that doesn’t just affect the individual. Addiction has a grasp that reaches out and affects family and loved ones, and it can cause significant pain and trauma. Coping with a loved one’s addiction can leave you with feelings of confusion, hurt, and maybe even guilt. 

If you want to help but don’t know how, it’s important to care for yourself during this time. Massachusetts Center for Addiction is here to help those who have a loved one or family member struggling with addiction. 

Does Your Loved One Have an Addiction?

Alcohol and drug abuse is something that most people try to keep hidden from their family and loved ones. They may feel a sense of shame and guilt, or they may be secretive in an attempt to protect their substance use so that loved ones don’t try to interfere. 

The signs of substance misuse and addiction aren’t always obvious. More subtle changes can happen over time, leaving you to wonder what is going on with your loved one. If you’re doubting yourself, it’s important to trust your instinct. If you feel your loved one may be struggling with addiction, there’s a strong chance that you’re right. 

Although this list is not exhaustive, signs that your loved one is struggling with addiction may include:

  • Behavioral and mood changes – mood swings, irritability, changes in temper, aggressiveness 
  • Financial instability 
  • Secretiveness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and pleasurable activities 
  • A noticeable shift in work or academic performance
  • Drinking or using other substances to the point of intoxication or impairment 
  • Misuse of prescription medication, running out of a prescription quickly
  • Prioritizing drinking or substance use over other activities 
  • Continually seeking out where and how to get more alcohol or drugs 
  • Loss of coordination
  • Participating in risky behaviors
  • Changes in social circles and social behaviors
  • Withdrawal from family and loved ones

If you suspect your loved one is an addict, try to remember that they’re not defined by addiction. Addiction is a disease that needs to be treated, just like any other physical or mental health condition. 

Understanding Codependency and Addiction 

Codependency is very common in relationships where one person has an addiction disorder. It can be described as prioritizing care for your loved one and their needs as you try to help them while neglecting your own needs. Codependency creates a feeling of being entangled in the other person’s addiction, rather than seeing it as a separate issue that they must address for themselves.

Codependency may look like investing yourself in an attempt to save your loved one, which results in enabling their addiction. What your loved one needs is professional help in the form of drug or alcohol rehab. 

Setting Boundaries 

It can feel all-consuming when your loved one has an addiction. For the sake of your own physical and mental health, it’s important to establish personal boundaries and stick to them. This is your loved one’s addiction, and it’s theirs to overcome. It’s important to protect and care for yourself by deciding what a healthy level of involvement looks like and being firm about how much their addiction can affect your life. 

Not establishing boundaries can lead to even more issues down the road. Without boundaries, you may feel used, angry, and resentful. Family recovery programs can help you better understand how to set healthy boundaries and stick to them. 

Here are a few examples of healthy boundaries when a loved one is struggling with addiction. 

  • Stop rescuing them. Allow them to face the consequences and take accountability for their actions. 
  • Limiting contact until they’re willing to get the help they need. 
  • Taking steps to protect yourself and others, including children. This may mean separating the family until your loved one gets help. 
  • Not offering financial resources to either help them fund their addiction or pay bills they’re behind on. 
  • State your limits, and stick by them, no matter what.

Therapy & Support Groups for Friends and Family of Drug Addicts 

When your loved one has an addiction, it can leave you with feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, and betrayal. It’s normal to experience all of these emotions, but this isn’t something that you need to work through on your own. Family therapy and family programs are available to help you and your family work through the emotions and trauma of a loved one’s addiction and help you all heal as a family unit.

At Massachusetts Center for Addiction, we acknowledge that addiction is one of the most difficult challenges a family can face. Our Family Program offers the opportunity to express and work through emotions, acknowledge the damage that addiction has done, help everyone establish healthy boundaries, heal from trauma, and begin to rebuild trust and relationships. 

You may also be able to find support groups in your area for families that are dealing with a loved one’s addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a great resource for finding support groups in your area. 

Helping a Loved One Get Treatment for Addiction 

If your loved one has an addiction and you don’t know where to turn, we’re here to help. Contact the Massachusetts Center for Addiction at 844-486-0671. Let us answer your questions and help both you and your loved one get the support you need. Addiction recovery is a long journey, but with the right support network, you can get through it.

MCA Staff
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