An alcoholic/drug addict in the household
Stress of living with an addict
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Living with an addict is quite a challenge to say the least and usually presents those affected with a variety of life-altering circumstances and difficult decisions that must be made.
An addict in the household has long-term physical, emotional, spiritual and social consequences for everyone involved. The non-addicted spouse or partner will carry scars into their old age and children will carry their scars into adulthood. No one makes it through unscathed.
Thousands of Kenyans are struck by addiction either to drugs or alcohol, so that means there are a great many families out there enduring this often unbearable situation.
Substance dependence is a health condition that originates within neurotransmitters in the brain, not the result of weak will, character flaws, mental disorders, spiritual flaws etc. and can be successfully addressed with rehabilitation programs which combines medication to assist withdrawal syndrome,psychotherapy, nutrition, spirtual guidance.etc.
Depending on the situation, the non-addicted partner will face at least several of these scenarios: increased stress, embarrassment, emotional pain, financial difficulties, anger, helplessness, sadness or depression, anxiety, loss of intimacy and connection.
Similarly children who grow up with an substance dependent parent or caretaker usually end up as adults who have great difficulty in intimate relationships, they have relationships with alcoholics or people with other addictions. They feel depressed, anxious, have low self-esteem and self-worth, develop addictions of their own, carry a great deal of buried anger, feelings of deep loss, internal deprivation, sadness and emptiness that they can’t explain.
On the other hand, the addict is not a bad person and likely has a lot of good qualities as well, so all those living with an addict are likely to feel guilty and conflicted about the negative feelings they have towards the addict. They often feel responsible, helpless, confused and desperate.
If the non-addcited partner continues living with an addict, the crucial key to maintain their sanity is they must set firm boundaries on what is acceptable behavior and how they will interact with the addict. They must protect themselves, and the children, as much as possible from the wrath of addict.
Do’s and Don’ts for Living with an Addict
- Under no circumstance is physical or verbal abuse acceptable. If physical abuse occurs, then you should have them arrested and press charges. Make them face the consequences of their behavior.
- Do not ever cover for the addict. Again, they must always be forced to accept the consequences of their behavior.
- Do not fix things for them. If you cover for them and fix things, they will never feel motivated to change.
- Do not protect them from themselves.
- Do not lie for them.
- Do not call them off work.
- Do not make excuses for them.
- Do not lie to the children. (Grown children)
- Don’t deny the children’s reality. If the addicted spouse or partner does something that hurts them, acknowledge the behavior is inappropriate and validate their feelings. Allow them to be angry and express themselves.
- Do not allow the addict to abuse the children.
- Try to minimize the impact on the children as much as possible, but always be honest and up front.
- Educate children about addiction and explain that it is the disorder that makes their parent behave in this way, the parent is not a bad person.
- Find other ways to get the emotional needs of the family met with friends, family, social programs, Big Brothers or Sisters program, etc.
- Don’t engage in name-calling, belittling or berating in front of children.
- Have your own life and keep it as full as possible.
- Get emotional support from friends or a counselor. Make sure you have someone that you can vent with.
- Contact a rehabilitation centre that practices the 12 steps program of AA/NA with qualified and experienced counselors and psychologist.