We Are Learning to Co-Exist with COVID-19, But Can We Learn To Co-Exist With An Addict As Well?

COVID-19 drastically uprooted our lives, and continues to impact it in significant ways.  Although the virus is still active without access to official therapeutics or vaccines, we have more or less learned to live with it. Wearing masks and social distancing has become the norm, and we have learned to regularly wash our hands, not shake hands or hug, travel less, socialize less, not touch our face, homeschool our children, work from home, and adjust in every other which way.  When forced to adapt under pressure, humans can transform in remarkable ways.

 

Unfortunately, adapting is often not the case for family members, friends, colleagues, or others who are close to an individual struggling with or in recovery from a substance use disorder, be it alcoholism or drug addiction.  When adaptation does happen, it often happens in unhealthy ways.  Instead of accepting an individual with a drug or alcohol addiction, detaching from them, or being somewhere in-between, we often stigmatize them, shame them, judge them, and scrutinize them while also allowing them to negatively impact our own lives, causing increased stress, anxiety, trauma, sadness, and sleepless nights, allowing the theft of our joy and very livelihood.  Instead of learning to live with an addicted individual, in recovery or not, we often find ourselves going along for the ride with co-dependent behaviors, living with poor boundaries, enmeshment, or possibly enabling their destructive behaviors.  Loved ones must learn to co-exist with their addicted loved one in healthy ways, while also engaging in their own self-care and receiving their own support.

 

Setting healthy boundaries with an individual struggling with drug addiction or an addiction to alcohol is not easy, especially when they are someone we really care about like a child, parent or sibling.  Sometimes it means cutting off communication, cutting off financial support, evicting them from our homes, or other such harsh and firm boundaries.  But let’s also remember that when we detach, we can detach with love.  This means that we explain to the individual that we love them and care about them, but we cannot continue to support their addiction or allow their addiction to negatively impact our own lives; however, we are here for them when they are ready to accept help and choose the path of recovery from their addiction by seeking addiction treatment through help from an addiction specialist, recovery coach or sober coach, therapist specializing in addiction, or other such addiction professional.  Also, complete detachment is not always necessary, and there are ways to set other boundaries that allow you to protect your own mental health while also continuing to have a relationship with your addicted loved one.

 

Regardless of what types of personal boundaries you choose to set with an individual struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, it is also important to engage in self-care and seek out your own support.  Engaging in self-care will allow you to be your best self, help you regulate your mood and emotions, and help you put the focus on you rather than on the individual with the addiction.  Self-care can mean a variety of daily habits and routines such as exercise, meditation, healthy nutrition, journaling, reading, taking a bath, or other such behaviors.  Receiving your own support from a family therapist or addiction professional who specializes in the family side of addiction is also very important, and/or seeking out family support groups for individuals impacted by addiction such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or SMART Recovery for Family & Friends.  These outlets will help you find support and healing.

 

The impact of addiction is far reaching, well beyond the impact of the addicted individual themselves.  There are over 20-million individuals in the United States struggling with an addiction to alcohol, opioids (heroin, fentanyl, etc.), benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, etc.), cocaine, amphetamine (Adderall, Vyvanse), crystal methanohetamine, and various other drugs.  There are also over 100-million more family, friends and colleagues that struggle along-side the addicted individual.  If you are making the decision to continue to live with an individual addicted to drugs or alcohol, or if you have such a person in your life, it is important that you learn to adapt to live with them, or adapt to living without them – the choice is yours.  You must learn to do what is necessary so that you can be at peace, and not have the addicted individual take away your own serenity and happiness.

 

For more information on addiction treatment, therapy and mental health, sober coaching, sober companions, or to inquire about our private concierge therapy services and/or our teletherapy services (online therapy/virtual therapy) in New York City please contact our undisclosed therapy office location in the Upper East Side of NYC today at (929) 220-2912.

Author
Lin Sternlicht & Aaron Sternlicht

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