Take Care of Yourself

Our guess: “emotional minefield” sums it up for you, too

  • Don’t blame yourself. Guilt is not a useful emotion. Other people’s actions generally do not cause alcohol or drug dependency.
  • It is natural to feel anger, hurt and disappointment.
  • Admit it when you’ve blown it, apologize, and move on.
  • Focus on what you can do and Get Your Bearings. Let go of what you can’t do. Nobody can force an addict to be well.

Many say, “If only I had known then what I know now.”

  • Educate yourself. For starters, there’s a range of useful information in our Library, including recommended books.
  • Download Gone Too Soon: Navigating Grief and Loss as a result of Substance Use to read the stories and experiences of parents who have lost their children to drug related harms and hear what they wish they had known in the immediate days after they lost children to drug-related harms, as well as what they wished they had known in the months and years after.
  • Explore paths you may not have tried before. Many find daily readers like Al-Anon’s One Day at a Time helpful during difficult times, and this may be a time to investigate your own spirituality.

Extending your reach might be your salvation

  • Stay connected. This is a time when you need to reach out to your family and friends, not to withdraw because of feelings of shame. After all, both medicine and law recognize addiction as a disease. You’ll be amazed at how understanding most people are.
  • Get counselling support! You don’t have to go through this alone, and you don’t have to stick with the first counsellor you meet. If a counsellor is to be helpful, you have to be able to agree with his/her philosophy as well as on a course of action. Keep trying until you find one you can work with.
  • If one-on-one help doesn’t appeal to you, join a group. There is no substitute for first-hand experience, and several groups (Parents Forever, Parents Together, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon) offer mutual support from people who have been there and are still struggling with addiction issues. FGTA’s guide called Parents in Action, downloadable here, provides a window into parents’ group proceedings.

You might save your sanity by saving someone else’s.

  • If there is no group in your area, start one. Don’t let embarrassment or shame get in the way of your taking action. More than likely, there are others in your community struggling with drug use issues. You just need to find one another. Try posting a notice of a meeting at your local church, community or health centre. Or let health and other professionals in the field know what you are planning, and get their help in advertising and organizing the gathering. In other words, be creative. You have nothing to lose but your isolation.

Being healthy is not being selfish.

  • How can you help someone else if you aren’t physically and emotionally healthy yourself? Keep an eye on your own health and well-being. Self-care is not only essential but also can have the additional benefit of modeling coping techniques for your addicted family member.
  • Try to eat well and exercise regularly (and encourage everyone in your family to join you). Get out, go for a walk, and spend time with others you find supportive. Talk to your GP or other health professional if you need more help than you’re getting now.

Keep your eye on the prize.

  • Above all, don’t give up on your own life, dreams, and goals.