By Jack Gilbert, LCSW, Clinical Director at The Ranch PA It\u2019s very common for your life and needs to be off balance when you love someone with an addiction. This can lead to high levels of emotional and physical stress and put you at risk for developing your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual problems. Not surprisingly, research has shown that caregivers of people with substance use disorders experience a lower quality of life, depression and high stress levels. It\u2019s essential to maintain your health and well-being and keep your life balanced when your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol. This doesn\u2019t mean you care any less, it simply means you\u2019re dealing with your loved one\u2019s addiction as a part of your life and not allowing your life to revolve around their problems. Here are some ways to live a balanced life when you\u2019re dealing with a loved one\u2019s addiction: 1. Practice good self-care The number-one rule for anyone in a caretaker role is to take good care of themselves.\u00a0 This rule certainly applies to people who have loved ones with substance use disorders. Taking care of yourself can mean: \tGetting enough sleep \tEating a nutritious diet \tExercising \tPracticing mindfulness \tWorking \tSocializing \tHaving fun \tHaving downtime \tEngaging in activities that support spirituality 2. Accept that you can\u2019t change them It\u2019s important to understand this isn\u2019t your fault and you can\u2019t make another person change if they\u2019re unwilling to do so. You can\u2019t do the work for them. You can be there for your loved one when they\u2019re ready to get help. You can offer emotional support and love, but you can\u2019t fix them, and you\u2019re not responsible for their sobriety. 3. Develop a support network Dealing with a loved one\u2019s addiction can be extremely isolating. Make sure you have a strong support network to lean on during difficult times. Your support network might include family and friends who are empathetic toward your situation as well as people you meet in groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and CODA. Mental health professionals can also be an immense source of support. 4. Encourage healthy actions You can\u2019t fix your loved one, but you can support them as they begin developing the motivation to change. Support their healthy choices and behaviors while discouraging and withdrawing support for unhealthy, addictive behaviors. Be encouraging if they take any steps toward sobriety and living a better life. These may be actions like attending a 12-step, Refuge Recovery or SMART Recovery meeting, applying for a job, refraining from drinking at a work or family function, exercising, or taking responsibility for a mistake. Even if they\u2019re not ready to give up drugs and alcohol for good, provide positive reinforcement for even small actions that support their independence or get them one step closer to sobriety. 5. Attend individual therapy Many people find that the guidance of a mental health professional does wonders for helping them more effectively deal with their addicted loved one and restoring balance when it\u2019s been lost. Work with a therapist to process the difficult situation you\u2019re going through and the emotions you\u2019re experiencing as a result. It\u2019s natural for loved ones of people with substance use disorders to have intense feelings of anger, frustration, helplessness, disappointment, anxiety as well as shame and guilt. A therapist can help you address these emotions, establish boundaries and avoid enabling behaviors. 6. Attend family therapy Because addiction is a family disease, it takes a toll on everyone. In order for the family unit to heal, it\u2019s important that everyone has an opportunity to get support, express their feelings and be heard. This process is much more effective with the guidance of a specially trained mental health professional who can serve as a guide and ensure productive communication. 7. Join a support group Mutual aid groups for loved ones of addicted people can be a wonderful source of support. People who attend these groups have been there and can truly relate to what you\u2019re experiencing. The benefits of being part of a fellowship that supports the caretakers and loved ones of addicted people are significant and include: \tA source of emotional support \tHelp setting boundaries \tLearning to detach with love \tUnderstanding you cannot control your loved one\u2019s addiction \tPinpointing and avoiding enabling behaviors \tLearning how to focus on your own life again Support groups for loved ones of people with substance use disorders include: \tCo-Dependents Anonymous \tAl-Anon \tNar-Anon \tAlateen \tSMART Recovery 8. Don\u2019t enable Enabling happens when we become over-involved in the lives of loved ones with substance abuse issues. I always tell loved ones of addicted people that refraining from enabling behaviors doesn\u2019t mean they\u2019ve stopped caring for or loving the individual. It means they\u2019re not supporting their loved one in any behaviors that are unhealthy and sustain their addiction. 9.\u00a0 Maintain healthy boundaries To avoid enabling your loved one, it\u2019s essential to establish healthy boundaries. It\u2019s best if boundaries are established in advance of unwanted behavior so your loved one knows what to expect when they cross a line. Healthy boundaries may include actions like: \tNot providing financial support for gas, food, cell phone service, etc. when they\u2019re active in their addiction \tNot allowing them in your home when they\u2019re abusing drugs or alcohol \tNot making up excuses for absences from work, school or social commitments as a result of their substance abuse \tNot bailing them out or providing legal help if they\u2019re arrested \u00a010. Support them in their recovery If your loved one does decide to participate in addiction treatment, be ready to support them in their recovery when they return. An important way to do this is to be unwavering in your boundaries. Your loved one should understand that if they relapse, you may help them obtain the treatment they need, but you will not enable their destructive behaviors. To be prepared in the event your loved one relapses, develop conditions for continued support. These are conditions that they agree to in order to have your support, be it financial and\/or emotional before they leave treatment. Clearly establish in advance what is expected in terms of your loved one\u2019s sobriety and what will happen if those expectations are not met. Examples of conditions for continued support include: \tFollow any post-discharge treatment plan \tParticipate in a least one type of sober support group regularly such as AA, NA, Refuge Recovery or SMART Recovery \tAttend an intensive outpatient program \tParticipate in individual therapy, couples therapy and\/or family therapy \tTransition to a sober-living residence before coming home \tParticipate in drug testing \tMaintain employment or school attendance\/assignments Having an addicted person in the family can make every day and every interaction a challenge. But with 23 million people addicted to drugs or alcohol and many more millions of loved ones affected, you are not alone. There is support available to put you in the best position to help yourself and your addicted loved one.