Coping Skills for the Loved Ones of Addicts

Being the friend, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, or any other loved one of an addict is a devastating role. You have to watch your loved one stumble through destructive behaviors, losing jobs, losing friends, and doing irreparable harm to their health and well-being. You may also have been taken advantage of by this person. Addicts tend to lie, steal, cheat, and do anything they can to get their fix. Their family members and friends are often the ones who are the recipients of these behaviors.

Negative Coping Skills

There are plenty of ways to cope with the difficulty of a loved one’s addiction. Some are not helpful and possibly destructive. For instance, you may be tempted to deny the problem. Denial may seem benign, but by denying the addiction, you are passively encouraging it. Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. Another poor coping strategy is enabling. You may think you are helping your loved one by giving him money and it may make you feel better, as if you are helping. At some point, though, supporting an addict financially is no longer a help. Perhaps the worst way to cope with a loved one’s addiction is to indulge in a substance yourself. When the stress, fear, and anger gets to be too much, don’t turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.

Positive Coping Skills

None of the above strategies are helpful ways to deal with the problem of an addiction. When things get really tough, it can be tempting to drown your feelings in unhealthy behaviors. Instead of taking the easy route, stay strong, be there to support your loved one, and cope with the situation in helpful and healthful ways.

Learn about addiction. Knowledge is power. If you have never experienced addiction in yourself or another loved one prior to your current situation, it can be quite a shock. The more you learn about addiction, how it works, how it affects the brain, and how it changes the behavior and personality of your loved one, the easier it will be to cope.

Get some exercise. Few things are better for stress and for releasing negative tensions, than a little exercise, or a lot. Exercising regularly, even if this means just going for a quick walk, can make you feel much better. The time spent exercising can also be used as reflection. It gives you a chance to clear your head and to think of solutions to specific problems that are bothering you.

Learn some relaxation exercises. Several relaxation techniques have been perfected over the years to help people keep stress and anger at a minimum. Try out meditation, tai chi, deep breathing, and yoga to manage your stress and to keep your emotions under control.

Try out support groups. There are support groups, like Al Anon, that exist solely for the purpose of helping the loved one of addicts. Some groups are specifically for children of addicts, spouses of addicts, or parents of addicts, while others are more general and can help anyone struggling with this situation. Sharing with others and hearing about similar experiences can be a great stress relief.

Consider going to therapy with your loved one. If the addict you love has agreed to get help, go to therapy sessions together. By getting concurrent help, you can both learn to cope with the addiction and its consequences. You will each get a better understanding for each other as well.

Keep a journal. Getting your feelings down on paper is very powerful exercise. Keep a journal for recording your thoughts and emotions each day or whenever you feel the need to vent. Let it be a safe place in which you can say whatever you want about anything. If you need to say negative things about your loved one, do so. Just be sure to keep the journal away from anyone else’s eyes.

Get out and do something fun together. When your loved one is struggling with addiction and you are battling the consequences of that addiction, everything about your relationship becomes negative. Try to remember what you enjoy about each other and find a common interest. Go to the beach, a concert, or go shopping. Do whatever is fun for both of you to lighten up the situation a little bit.