May 14, 2018

How to Live with Someone Who Suffers from Addiction

Written by St. Christopher's

We sat with St. Christopher’s COO, Brandy Klingman, LMSW, BACS, to get her advice on this topic.

How do we cope with the pain of addiction each day and live with our loved one?

The key is a lot of support. We know that sometimes addiction lives within secrecy and within division of people – splitting people, the family members, up. It’s really important that everyone talks openly and honestly in a very compassionate way about the person who is struggling with the disease of addiction. In that way, you’re not alone because the feeling of despair and hopelessness often sneaks in when we’re alone and feeling overwhelmed. So, if we have a support team, that’s not as likely to happen or those times are fewer and smaller in timeframe. The support team is really important, and that’s going to be anyone in your circle or anyone in your loved one’s circle that’s willing to be there for you and for the loved one – the person suffering from addiction. To say like we are all banding together, and we are not going to break this bond and we’ll be here for each other in a moment of weakness. Let’s say your loved one calls saying, “please baby, can I come home? I’m really hungry.” You can say, “I’m going to call my mom who really loves you or I’m going to call your mom who loves you and we are going to make a decision together.” So, It’s not just you in it.

Whereas if it was cancer, you would have everyone making your meals, they would be coming over to your house, they would be asking if they could help clean up.

We don’t talk about addiction openly. Shame and stigma that’s attached to it and so we don’t want to tell anyone that our husband or our kid or sister or mother, has an addiction. You isolate a bit and hold it in. Whereas if it was cancer, you would have everyone making your meals, they would be coming over to your house, they would be asking if they could help clean up. Everybody would want updates on a prayer chain and a group chat, and that’s really what you are wanting in addiction. That’s really, everything needs to come out in the open and take away the stigma and the shame because there’s been enough of that. And move into a likeness where everyone is talking about kindness and compassion for this person in a very concerned way.

How do we start talking about it? How do we get over the shame?

It’s important to know as adults, healthy adults, who is really in our corner. Sometimes there are people you can call that will be helpful to you and kind to you and give you truth and honesty, and then there’s sometimes you call people and they are going to use it against you or talk about you or use it against the person. If I was to call my best friend and tell her “Look, I got into a fight with my husband.” I wouldn’t want her to use that as a thing to poke at him later or to hold that against him. So, that person may not be the best kind of person to talk to if she was going to do that. You want people who are going to be very supportive and loving in your circle. You’re going to have to pick a few people that are those kinds of people. Who are not gossipers, who aren’t going to use it to be mean or cruel to that person. They don’t always have to understand everything, they just have to be willing to be supportive of you and to help you stay strong, and supportive of wellness and help your loved one stay strong if needed.

Shame is kind of a poison and will eat us alive from the inside out.

Second, when you’re talking about how you get over the shame, sometimes when I tell people how to deal with shame is, shame is an important feeling. We all have it and it’s valid. It tells us something’s not congruent within ourselves. However, it is kind of a poison and will eat us alive from the inside out. Talking about it openly is very important and then another thing we can do with shame is a lot of self-compassion. I didn’t want to choose this, I deserve better, I wish that I was in a better situation, this is very sad, this is very scary, I feel bad that I am in this situation and I’m so concerned and feel bad for my husband or wife or partner, whoever it is that is struggling too. A lot of self-compassion and exercises in compassion. Instead of words that ridicule or any disparaging remarks that we make about ourselves.