Just as a person’s substance addiction may impact a family’s everyday life and social relationships, recovery from addiction concerns families and communities. Lack of family support can create a gap in care for recovering individuals. In situations when a relative needs to step in as a caregiver for someone recovering from addiction, they must understand the challenges of this role.
The caregiver’s well-being matters as much as the recovering individual’s. If a caregiver is overburdened and overwhelmed by the challenging tasks, it can become a problem for the recovering individual. This is a caregiver needs to build in self-care strategies to make the mission sustainable.
Caregiver Stress Is Under-Estimated
Most medical communities agree that children with addicted parents are at higher risk of developing cognitive and behavioral problems. This is because substance addiction may lead to a range of co-occurring conditions in the home, such as relationship conflicts, compulsive behaviors, lying and deception, violence, even the child developing an addiction.
Caring for someone recovering from substance abuse when that caregiver has undergone treatment can be challenging for the same reasons. A caregiver needs to bear with all the behavioral problems, such as anger, shame, guilt, and depression. Among caregiving tasks are managing these difficult and stressful life situations, which, if the caregiver is in recovery themselves, can be stressful or triggering.
Caregivers are human beings with emotional needs. Exposure to a recovering individual who displays a range of toxic behaviors can create a high-risk environment for the caregiver who is exposed to negative emotions for many hours or days. Caregivers need to train themselves to compartmentalize emotions and problems, which can be challenging because this one-on-one situation is designed to be personal and emotionally involved.
Self-care Practices for Caregivers
As a caregiver to a loved one recovering from addiction, the caregiver may experience a period of grieving or recalibrating. The loved one may seem to have changed under the influence of substance use. There may need to be significant relationship rebuilding. While caring for a recovering individual, a caregiver is also sacrificing his or her own time and energy, which can be draining.
Families who are affected by a loved one’s addiction are recommended to attend counseling sessions and make time to become knowledgeable about addiction and recovery. This can be self-education—given all necessary materials—or through a family counselor. Caregivers can also seek external support when things get too stressful.
Even as a primary caregiver, one should never take on one hundred percent of the one in recovery’s care. Taking breaks and getting relief are important for the primary caregiver so they don’t become burnt out. This person should take days off and have time free of burden and heavy responsibility as a way to practice self-care. They should also ensure a proper diet and regular sleeping patterns. No one can pour out of an empty cup, so caregivers must also care for themselves.
Making Sense of the Experience and Lessening the Pain
There can be a lot of emotional pain when caring for a loved one with an addiction. Caregivers should seek out and attend their own support groups. Having someone in the recovery community to talk with is a good way to make sense of their experiences and lessen the pain.
Healthcare providers must also recognize the stress and pain imposed on caregivers. Support programs for these caregivers are essential. Supporting self-care for them can enhance their ability to support their loved one’s recovery. Below are a few pieces of practical advice for caregivers:
- Keep a healthy routine that involves good sleep, diet, and exercise
- Join a support group with other caregivers of people recovering from addiction
- Work with a personal therapist who can help caregivers keep up with their health
- Avoid feeding co-dependency patterns when caring for the person with addiction
- Be aware of feelings of fear or agitation and seek professional help or other social support
- Set emotional boundaries in caregiving duties and make “tough love” calls when it comes to the one in recovery’s emotional problems
- Know when it is time to use other help, especially when violence or stress is endangering the caregiver’s well-being
Use Professional Intervention When Necessary
Because of the hard-wired nature and complexity of addiction, it is often too challenging for one person to support a loved one’s recovery alone. Caregivers should be open to the idea of seeking professional treatment and intervention for their loved ones. If there is hesitation or resistance, examine the root cause of that hesitance.
Feelings of shame, guilt, or failure can make it difficult to admit when help is needed. However, if the caregiver cannot provide the level of care necessary for both themselves and the one recovering, it is time for professional intervention.
Are you caring for a loved one who is recovering from both substance addiction and mental health problems? Caregiving is a huge responsibility to take on for one person. You need to have a strong support system and effective self-care strategies. They will sustain you to bear the burden of a caregiver. Most importantly, you should seek help from health professionals who have expertise in caring for recovering individuals. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we have licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists who can coach you or your loved one in reorganizing a post-sobriety or at-home recovery life. When there is a need for more rigorous intervention, our residential facility offers the perfect place to be. Your loved one can benefit from a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. Both you and your loved one deserve the best support and care. Call us at (866) 906-3203.