Addiction impacts everyone. Since addiction often greatly impairs our capacity for healthy relating, those around us also suffer because of our addiction.
Before we get more deeply into this topic, I believe it is important to see addiction as a human problem. We all have addictions, all of us. Those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs tend to get the spotlight along with the stigma. Yet, just about every single one of us is addicted to something.
Most common addictions tend to be socially acceptable. Such as an addiction to perfection and workaholism. We also can become addicted to unhealthy relationships, anxiety, depression, worrying, shopping, complaining and gossiping – the list goes on. We could also talk about the widespread epidemic of being addicted to living in our heads!
For the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on the kind of addiction that the person is receiving support for from professionals, and how this person’s family members can support them without jeopardizing their own well-being.
The solution tends to be simple (yet not easy!): Self-care. But even more specifically: Inner-work.
Putting in the Work
I honestly believe there are two types of people in this world, only two: Those who are working on themselves, and those who are not. Inner work is essential!
I’ve been working on myself for nearly 15 years. I’m going to describe what I’ve been gaining from this work that could be very beneficial to those who care for a loved one struggling with addiction.
Not My Pain
Through inner work, it is easier to have clarity about where I begin and end. In other words, distinguishing between my pain and the pain of a loved one requires very healthy boundaries. Learning to establish and feel our healthy boundaries is part of inner work.
Without this skill, we could easily fuse with our loved ones’ pain and let that pain suffocate us to the point of not being able to support either them or ourselves! By learning about ourselves and respecting our capacities as well as limitations, we become capable of giving without giving ourselves away. Healthy love.
I Have a Voice
Another important skill is self-expression. Quality psychotherapy helps us accept our personal preferences. It shows us how to express ourselves with both kindness and directness.
Sometimes love must be fierce. If I don’t learn how to say “no,” I cannot establish healthy boundaries with my loved one who is struggling with addiction. If I can’t say “no,” I could also be more prone to enabling my loved one’s addiction.
Care Without Worry
Lastly, the more deeply we work on ourselves, the less afraid we tend to become. In this, I’ve been seeing that worrying about someone and actually loving them from a courageous and peaceful place are very different things!
I believe and know that our care can come from an empowered (and soft) place in us that doesn’t need the fearfulness of worry or anxiety. I invite you to deeply question the common belief that goes, “If you’re not worried about someone, that means you don’t care about them.”
By working on ourselves deeply, we become more capable of caring without getting lost in the other’s pain. We learn to express ourselves with both guts and heart. We get to love deeply and be at peace at the same time.
Thus, we increase our capacity to love and offer support in a truly sustainable way, with neither compassion fatigue, burnout, or resentment.