Often when dealing with a family member or loved one who is struggling with addiction we take on the role as nurturer and protector, while navigating the thin line between loving them and enabling them. It is a constant struggle to figure out how we can help and keep them safe without contributing to their addiction. Our ultimate goal is to get them the help they need to recover, but many times we just have to settle with doing what we can to help keep them alive.
This daunting task can quickly become overwhelming and while we are focused on the addict, our families, relationships and careers, we easily forget to take care of what’s number one: ourselves.
It’s natural to put our loved ones before ourselves, but many times this can be disastrous for our mental, emotional and physical well-being. It’s easy to start ignoring our own needs in order to choose what’s good for our loved ones, but what we don't realize is that if we don't take care of ourselves, we aren't going to be any good to anyone else.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for putting yourself first. Here are 3 key reasons.
1. You need basic necessities to function.
When we've decided to let our own needs go by the wayside, we may not realize it at first but we’re also neglecting the needs of the person we’re trying to help. Without enough sleep, proper nutrition and exercise, our bodies and minds slow down. We become forgetful, agitated and less productive. When this happens, no one's needs are being met.
2. You need your sanity.
The emotional roller coaster of dealing with someone you love in active addiction can cause detrimental side effects to our mental state and often times, without realizing it, depression sets in. Stress is a huge factor in this situation. We must find a way to recognize and alleviate the stress. Whether it’s through meditation, a trip to the spa or a power nap in the middle of the day, keeping our mental agility intact is paramount to having the strength to help our addicted loved one.
3. You need spiritual connection.
To watch someone we love destroy themselves and their lives can be demoralizing. Whatever your spiritual belief system might be, you may find it challenged in these dark times. Take the time to stay connected to your beliefs and spiritual health. It is a predominant factor in holding onto hope and keeping yourself from the murky hole of misery.
Remember, "misery loves company" and this journey will try to make you its friend. Hold on to hope however you can, because hope is all we really have.
At the end of the day, when we lay our heads on our pillows, our last thoughts may be of the one we love who is combating a substance use disorder. This is totally understandable. Have those thoughts. Pray for them if that's what you do. Then, turn your thoughts to yourself. Take a few moments to plan your next day. Slide into your busy schedule the time for your physical, emotional and spiritual health. Cut the guilt while you cut a homemade meal the next night. It'll be okay if they have pizza for the third Friday night in a row and plan to take a long hot bath and curl up with a good book, with the extra time left over from not having to cook or clean up afterward.
It’s also okay to ask for help as well. Many times, just sorting out your own thoughts with a professional can go a long way. Feel free to use our list of nearby counselors and therapists or any other resource of your choice. After all, we aren't super humans and the best thing we can do for the ones we love is to love ourselves.