Addiction is a notoriously difficult disease to experience. Those who are actively abusing drugs and alcohol can struggle with issues such as cravings, painful withdrawal symptoms, hiding their abuse, and even financial problems. Attempting to live a full life when addicted to mind-altering substances is a dream that will go unfulfilled, as substance abuse robs people of their goals and happiness. But, individuals who are addicted to substances like alcohol, crack, meth, and heroin are not the only ones who are suffering distress as a result of their addiction. Their loved ones are also being affected by the disease, and many of them grapple with the feelings of guilt and shame surrounding the addict or alcoholic’s substance use disorder.
If you have a loved one who is actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, then you know how difficult it can be to cope with that reality. You likely have trouble finding ways to have fun with your loved one, communicate effectively with them, and simply enjoy being around them. You likely miss the person they were prior to their substance abuse and long for their successful recovery. But you also can feel angry and resentful of your loved one and their addiction, as well as sad and hopeless regarding the future. Watching someone you love deal with an addiction is like being on a roller coaster of emotions that never seems to stop.
But, out of all of the feelings you may have surrounding your loved one’s addiction, the two that might be the most complicated to deal with are the guilt and shame you experience.
Coping with Guilt and Shame
Addiction is an extremely personal disease, not only to the individual who is experiencing it first-hand, but also for their loved ones. You might understand that addiction is a clinical disease, but when it is occurring right in front of you, it often feels much deeper than that. In fact, you might even think that your loved one’s addiction is your fault. This is normal, however not usually accurate. Regardless of if someone tells you that your loved one’s addiction is not your fault, it doesn’t always make the guilt and shame go away. Instead, managing the feelings of guilt and shame regarding your loved one’s addiction takes work and effort.
Educating yourself about the disease of addiction is vital for several reasons, but can be especially helpful if you are struggling with guilt and shame. Addiction is usually part biological, part environmental. In some cases, it develops purely because of one’s biological makeup, while in other cases, one’s environment has entirely influenced their substance use disorder. But typically, it is a mix of the two. Spend time learning how addiction and how most people who have it are already predisposed to developing it. Take a look at how the brain can influence the development of addiction, as can environmental situations that may have been completely out of your control. The more you know about the disease of addiction, the easier it becomes to separate it from the person. One of the best places to start can be searching reputable sources online, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Be cautious with your social circles
It is normal to feel ashamed of something that isn’t seen as glamorous or desirable. So, it should come as no surprise that a loved one’s addiction might make you feel ashamed. An ideal way to negate carrying this heavy load of shame is to be cautious with who you let into your life at this time. Stay close with loved ones and friends who are non-judgmental and supportive rather than individuals who question your involvement in your loved one’s addiction. Continue to remind yourself that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember, addiction is a disease, not a choice.
See a therapist
When it comes to a disease like addiction, nobody who is affected by it should be made to deal with it on their own. Reach out to a therapist or other mental health professional. They can help you navigate the enormity of your loved one’s addiction and its impact on you. They can also help you deal specifically with your feelings of guilt and shame so that you can put them in the most appropriate, manageable context. Going to therapy provides you with the opportunity to regularly work out and discuss things that are impacting your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well as provide you with coping skills that can aid in getting through this difficult time.
Enabling is one of the most common things that loved ones of addicts and alcoholics find themselves doing. When you enable someone, you are actively participating in things that are helping them continue on with their substance abuse. You are likely not trying to enable your loved one, but being aware of your actions can help reduce your feelings of shame and guilt. Practicing healthy boundaries with your loved one and avoiding enabling behaviors can help take some of that pressure off of your shoulders, allowing you to see that you are not responsible for your loved one’s addiction.
The most important thing you can do is to give yourself grace at this time. It is easy to internalize a loved one’s addiction, but the truth of the matter is that you are not to blame for the addiction. You also do not need to feel shameful about your loved one’s situation, as addiction is a disease just like any other disease. Adopt this mindset and move forward while practicing it.
Addiction Treatment in Palm Springs
If your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, call us right now to learn more about how we can help. You do not have to go through this by yourself. We are here to help you and your loved one overcome the challenges that substance use disorder has presented in your lives.
So, do not wait. Call us right now. We can help.