Tips for living with someone who is struggling with addiction
Living with other people, whether it is a family member, a roommate, a close friend or a romantic partner is always a give and take. You have to set your own boundaries, respect others’ boundaries and privacy and learn to find balance and understanding in order to live in a harmonious household. When you are living under the same roof as someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can be extremely challenging and anything but harmonious. The first goal of learning to live with someone who is struggling with a substance use disorder is to learn about addiction and understand the consequences it can have on an individual and how those consequences can affect your household and relationships.
Addiction to opioids can be extremely dangerous because the brain becomes re-wired over time to crave more of the opioid due to the dopamine reward system. Addiction is much more than cravings and drug abuse. It encompasses unhealthy behaviors such as isolating from friends and family, skipping out on work and school obligations, financial instability, trouble with the law, and changes in personality and behaviors that can be harmful to oneself and others. Individuals who are struggling with addiction to opioids usually cannot wake up one day and decide to quit using without any sort of professional addiction treatment. The individual must want to enter into an addiction treatment center and receive the proper help in order to be successful in recovery.
Addiction to opioids often begins without any sort of intent. An individual may have chronic pain due to a medical disorder or acute pain after recovery from surgery and is prescribed prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone, codeine, or oxycodone. Individuals who become addicted to prescription painkillers may often move onto harder, more potent opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, that are often found on the street. Supporting a friend or family member, who you live, through an opioid abuse disorder can be challenging and lonely. Some of the best ways to be supportive involve educating yourself, practicing empathy, taking care of yourself, and learning what not to do.
Learn the difference between helping and enabling
Enabling behaviors are often confused with helping. Enabling refers to direct or indirect actions and words that allow your loved to continue their addiction. This may include failing to set appropriate boundaries, making excuses for your loved one’s behavior, providing financial resources to your loved one so they can purchase opioids, saving your loved one from unwanted consequences, or failing to recognize and admit that they are struggling with an addiction. Oftentimes, individuals may enable friends and family with alcohol or drug addictions because they believe they are truly helping, they want to see them get better, they do not know what else to do or they are nervous of potentially ruining their relationship with their loved one.
Helping your loved one requires you to set strict boundaries, encourage your loved one to seek professional addiction treatment, not giving into their unacceptable behaviors, not making excuses for their actions. Helping your loved ones means empowering them to make wise decisions, gain confidence in their actions through the recovery process, leading by example, offering help when needed, and holding your loved one accountable.
Accept the reality of addiction
Ignoring the addiction and thinking your loved one will “magically” become well is similar to sticking your head in the sand. It is important that you come face-to-face with reality and accept that the person who you are living with does have an addiction, which can not only wreak havoc on their life but can also cause harm to your life and your living situation as well. Accepting the reality of addiction is the first survival tip for living with someone who is struggling with addiction and prioritizing your mental health and safety.
Stop trying to fix or control the other person
The only person who you have control over is yourself. You may want to control the person you are living with in order to help them through their addiction, however, that is not your job. You can help the other person by setting boundaries and giving them addiction treatment resources, but this individual is going to live their life the way they choose to, regardless of your thoughts or actions. Once you let go of this control, you may find that you are more at peace with yourself.
Don’t play the blame game
It may be easy to blame the individual you are living with for the hardships and struggles in your life. Maybe their addictive behaviors are having a negative effect on your personal or professional life and although this can be challenging, it is not your place to blame another individual for the things you are struggling with. You need to be accountable and take responsibility for your own actions and hardships. Although it may be true that the individual who you are living with is contributing to your high stress levels, you are still responsible for how you react. Blaming this individual is not helping your situation or your loved one’s recovery process.
Take care of yourself
Living with someone, especially a loved one, with an addiction can be extremely stressful and exhausting. If you believe that you are in a potentially dangerous situation, then you must take the appropriate steps to seek help and exit that situation. If you feel that you can still reside with your loved one, it is important that you take care of your mental and physical health. This includes exercising daily, getting plenty of sleep on a regular basis, eating well-balanced meals, spending time with friends outside of the house, doing things you enjoy, and taking much-needed breaks from your loved one when necessary.
Encourage professional treatment
Although it is up to the person who you are living with to ultimately seek treatment for their drug abuse, you can gently encourage them to enter into support groups, therapy, or a substance abuse treatment center. You can provide them with resources, encouraging words, and local support groups and see if they are interested. It is important to not pressure them but instead gently encourage them. It is important to keep in mind if they are not ready to admit they have an addiction or are not yet ready to enter into treatment, then that is their independent decision.