Many of us whose loved ones are addicts become so focused on them and their challenges that we often don’t realize our own mental and emotional health are being adversely affected by their addictions. We fail to see all the ways in which we’re being limited, held back, brought down and hurt by our loved ones and their struggles with addiction. We usually don’t want to see these things. We avoid and resist the truth. We want to be there for our loved ones to show them unconditional love and support. We want to do everything in our power to help them get better. We feel guilty when we’re not able to be there for them, or when we put our foot down and stop enabling them. We feel ashamed of ourselves when we feel as though we’ve let them down, and we worry we’re not being the best possible partner, friend or family member to them. When we start to become more mindful of how we’re being affected by our loved ones’ addictions, we come to realize that our own mental and emotional health are being impacted in some very severe ways.
All the difficult thoughts and emotions we have around our loved ones’ addictions take a toll on us – the fear they won’t be able to recover, the guilt we feel that we’re not doing enough, the overwhelming pressure we feel from our sense of loyalty and obligation to them, the sadness we feel to see them suffering. Over time, these accumulate and begin to wear us down. We suffer our own breakdowns. We struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. If we’re grappling with addiction ourselves, we might find ourselves turning to our drugs of choice even more than normal in order to escape the pain of seeing our loved ones struggling.
Our emotional responses to their addictions can cause us even more pain. We blame ourselves for their hardships. We take on the responsibility for their recovery. All the conflicting feelings we feel bring up some very challenging questions for us – Should we continue to help them or leave them to do the work themselves? Are we protecting or enabling them? Should we delineate clearer boundaries? Should we protect ourselves more? Should we create more distance between ourselves and their toxicity? We struggle with these questions, and they weigh on us, contributing to our fear and deep unhappiness, and worsening our mental and emotional health over time.
Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you uncover the issues fueling your addictions. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.