Getting Help for Yourself When a Loved One Struggles with Addiction

When a person is addicted to harmful substances, it takes a toll on everyone around them. Watching someone you care about struggle with drug or alcohol abuse can create feelings of helplessness, angst, and fear.

The High Toll of Addiction

When you become physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, you can’t maintain your wellbeing, let alone someone else’s. Family members of addicts are at risk for a host of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, as well as physical symptoms, like headaches and digestive problems.

If all your energy is being channeled into caring for an addict, it may be time to look inward and make sure your own mental health isn’t being overlooked. It’s ok—even necessary, sometimes—for those close to drug and alcohol addicts to seek counseling for themselves.

How Counseling Can Help

Seeking counseling can equip you with the tools to better support your loved one as they battle drug or alcohol addiction. Counseling can help you in a variety of ways:

Provide a confidential and safe place to vent

Anger, frustration, sadness—the whirlwind of emotions that stem from dealing with a loved one’s addiction can get bottled up in the day-to-day work of providing care and support. Counseling offers a safe place to let it all out—a place with no judgements.

Offer coping strategies

Learning appropriate coping strategies can offer feelings of relief and freedom, especially when it comes to identifying triggers, creating safe spaces, and understanding how to express your feelings.

Help you develop an understanding of your role

It goes without saying that most family and friends will do anything they can to help a loved one get into treatment or get through addiction recovery. A counselor can help you recognize when it is appropriate to offer help and when it’s time to take a step back.

Develop a plan of action

Counseling has many therapeutic benefits for those affected by addiction. Perhaps the most important is developing a plan of action to work through difficult interactions, manage the rollercoaster of emotions, and deal with dangerous situations.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or “talk therapy,” is a form of counseling that has shown to be highly effective in helping individuals cope with their loved one’s addiction. Talk therapy can be done individually or in a group, depending on the setting that suits your needs. Here’s how CBT works to effect change:

  • CBT helps replace negative thoughts with healthier ways of thinking.
  • CBT also helps people change behaviors that stem from negative thoughts and take positive steps towards healthy behavioral choices.
  • A cognitive behavioral therapist can help those affected by addiction to create short- and long-term goals. This method can help build a sense of accomplishment. Keep in mind that this can be vitally important at a time when positivity is in short supply.
  • Education is an important part of CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapists provide tailored coping and problem-solving strategies that provide constructive outcomes.

Group Therapy and Support Groups

Much like there are support groups for individuals struggling with substance abuse, there are programs that aim to help an addict’s loved ones find healing. Group therapy and support groups provide you with a non-judgmental environment to share your story and to hear from others who are in similar situations. Participants often find comfort in knowing they are not alone in their circumstances and benefit from learning how other group members dealt with their loved one’s addiction.

At Mazzitti and Sullivan, we offer friends and family group counseling sessions specifically for those close to someone struggling with addiction. If you feel helpless trying to support a friend or family member who is dealing with substance abuse, please contact us today. Our experienced team of licensed counselors can help.

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