How do I get my life back from my loved one’s addiction?

The first step in getting your life back is to realize that you are not to blame for your loved one’s addiction. You did not make your loved one drink or use; they are the ones who made the decision to use substances. Simply put, it is not your fault that your loved one has an addiction.

You are not to blame for their addiction, but you can help! Family members have an impact on their loved ones and they can use this impact to support their loved one’s reduced use, abstinence, and to free themselves from their loved ones’ addictions.

How to create a plan for how to get your life back.

After you recognize that you are not to blame for your loved one’s addiction, the next step is to create a plan on how to get your life back. This plan can be as structured or as loose as you like, whatever works best for you. We’ll cover many elements of the plan in future emails, but as a starting point here are some things to consider in your “get my life back” plan:

Your needs for social support.

Social support is a very important part of the plan. Freeing your life from a loved one’s addiction can be stressful. Having people to turn to can be incredibly helpful. Some people find support through peer support groups. Al-anon and Nar-anon have been the most widely-available groups and they can be very helpful sometimes, but one size doesn’t fit all and there are other options out there. SMART Recovery Family and Friends is a community-based peer support group that uses CRAFT as a major part of it’s program. There are several online SMART Recovery Family and Friends meetings that happen weekly as well as some that meet in person in some places. Check out our local Pacific Northwest resources page**** for more information about groups that meet in this area.

Others prefer using trusted friends or family to get support. Still others find support through their spiritual community, therapy, or communities associated with a hobby (e.g., yoga group). Take time to think about how much and what type of social support you would like to have in your life. 

Your limits.

All of us have limits in regards to what types of behaviors we’ll tolerate. One person may allow her loved one to use marijuana in her house, while another person has a strict no drugs in the house policy. Limits are not necessarily good or bad, they are simply what you can live with. Limits vary person to person. Consider some of these examples of limits and whether they would apply to you:

  • not giving a son extra spending money when he’s used his money on drugs,

  • not calling in sick for a partner when he/she is hungover,

  • not making excuses to family members when a sister is too drunk or hungover to attend a family dinner, or

  • only spending “family time” with a mother when she is sober.

We will spend more time talking about limits in a future email. For now, it may be helpful to start thinking about your own personal limits.

What you’ve given  up.

Many times we give up activities and hobbies when a loved one is drinking or using. You may find that a lot of your time is spent dealing with your loved one’s use (e.g., picking him up from the bar, arguing with your partner about her use). Perhaps, as a result of your loved one’s use, you do more of the childcare, household duties, and paying the bills.

You also probably spend time worrying and trying to come up with ways to get them stop. When you pause to think about the time you spend related to your loved one’s addiction you may realize that you are spending a lot of time on their addiction.

What would you do with this time if it wasn’t focused on their addiction? What activities, hobbies, and self-care (e.g., working out, getting enough sleep) have you given up? Are there activities that you use to do with your loved one that no longer happen because of their addiction? Are there things you’ve always wanted to do, but don’t because you’re worried or don’t have the time to engage in them?

Well, it’s time to take your life back from your loved one’s addiction. Even if your loved one doesn’t get sober, you can have your life back and it can be free from their addiction.

Questions to consider in building your plan:

Think about the following questions as you build your plan:

  • What types of social support do you currently have? Do you have enough social support right now? Who are the people that you trust to help you during this potentially stressful time period? How much social support do you want? Do you think a peer support group (e.g., SMART Recovery Family and Friends online or in person***) would be helpful for you?

  • What substance-using behaviors are you not willing to tolerate? Which of your behaviors make it a little easier for your loved one to use (e.g., calling in sick when your partner is hung over)? Which of these behaviors are you willing to stop doing?

  • What activities or hobbies have you given up since your loved one started using? Are there activities you used to do with your family member that you would like to do again? Are there activities that you would like to do with your family member when they are sober? What activities or hobbies would you like to start or begin? What did you dream of doing before substances entered the picture?

By creating a draft of this plan (remember, you can change it as you need) you are starting to practice taking back control from your loved one’s addiction.

Congratulations on taking the first steps to regain your life from addiction!


Next Steps:

Take out a piece of paper and start your "get my life back" plan.  Start by jotting down your thoughts about...

  1. Your limits

  2. Your wants/needs

  3. What you've given up


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This post is week one of our ten-week, free email course on how to help an addicted loved one. If you've gotten here from somewhere else, you can sign up here

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