The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) uses the 7 Cs of addiction as framework for helping members work through the trauma caused by a loved one’s substance abuse:
I didn’t CAUSE it.
I can’t CONTROL it.
I can’t CURE it.
But, I can take CARE of myself by COMMUNICATING my feelings, making good CHOICES, and CELEBRATING myself.
Breaking this statement down gives you several key points to remember as your loved one completes treatment.
1. You Did Not Cause Your Loved One’s Addiction
Experts believe that addiction is a biologically based brain disease with genetic risk factors and a complex array of environmental triggers. It’s not contagious like the common cold or something you can give to someone based on your own behavior.
While under the influence, your loved one might try to blame you for their substance abuse. Your husband might say he abuses prescription painkillers because he works so hard to support your family. Your son might say he hangs out with people who use illegal street drugs because you were an inattentive parent. Your friend might say she drinks to excess because you’re too busy to hang out with her. These statements are certainly hurtful, but they are not accurate.
Someone with a substance use disorder will instinctively deny the severity of their addiction and try to deflect attention by attacking others. This is a symptom of the disease and not an evaluation of your actions.
2. The Problem Is Out of Your Control
You are not responsible for your loved one’s behavior. We are all individuals who are responsible for our own choices, even when those choices are dangerous and self-destructive.
However, this doesn’t mean that you are completely powerless over the situation. Setting firm boundaries, such as not allowing drugs or alcohol in your home, refusing to lend money, and not intervening when your loved one gets arrested due to substance abuse are all ways to encourage your loved one to realize the seriousness of the situation and seek treatment.
3. Addiction Can’t Be Cured
You can’t cure someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol with kind words or weekly attendance at worship services. These actions can create an environment that is supportive of maintaining sobriety, but the real work must be done by your loved one.
The most effective addiction treatment involves detox followed by intensive individual, group, and family counseling. A full continuum of care, designed to fit individual needs and address any co-occurring mental health disorders, helps your loved one build the skills they need to manage cravings, recognize relapse triggers, and cope with emotions or stressful situations without the use of addictive substances.
Treatment promotes sobriety, but it’s important to remember addiction is a chronic illness. Relapse is unfortunately a common part of the process for many people, since it can take some trial and error to find an effective treatment approach.
4. Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Selfish
When your loved one is struggling with addiction, it may seem like your problems are small in comparison. However, self-care is not selfish. In fact, taking time to attend to your own physical and mental health needs ultimately puts you in a better place to give your loved one the support they need following residential treatment.
5. Express Your Feelings
Having a friend or family member who struggles with addiction can lead to a wide range of emotions. You may be angry about how they’ve treated you in the past, worried about their health, afraid of what people will think if they find out about the addiction, or frustrated that your loved one doesn’t seem to want to change the behavior.
Joining a support group for people who have a loved one with an addiction can give you a constructive way to work through your feelings. Writing in a journal can also be an excellent way to process the emotions surrounding your loved one’s addiction.
6. Make Healthy Choices
It’s easy to underestimate the value of good sleep habits, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. However, these healthy lifestyle choices help balance your mood and boost your energy levels. This will provide you with the clarity you need to handle any issues related to your loved one’s substance use disorder.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to redo your entire routine to notice a difference in how you feel. Simply making the effort to go bed an hour earlier, drink water instead of sugary soda, or head out for a walk after dinner each night can be beneficial.
7. Look for Reasons to Celebrate
Your life should not be defined by your loved one’s substance abuse. Make an effort to express gratitude and appreciation for the things in life that make you happy. This could be as simple as spending time on a favorite hobby, getting outdoors to watch a beautiful sunset, or sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal. Looking for reasons to celebrate each day will help you keep a positive outlook as your loved one works towards recovery.