Caring for yourself while you are caring for someone else

We care for the important people in our lives in so many ways – by listening and talking about what’s going on with each other, by letting people know we are concerned about them, by sharing intimate moments or just by being there when we are needed… this is great and it’s not always easy.

In order to offer support to another person regarding problems they might be having with alcohol and/or other drug use, it’s important to look after your own health and wellbeing. It is normal for people close to someone with problematic alcohol and/or other drug use issues to experience a large range of conflicting emotions. These could include feelings of concern, worry, fear, isolation, anger, anxiety, shame, hopelessness, frustration, fear and stigma.

People in this situation can also feel that they are solely responsible for resolving the issue, which can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.

Tips for looking after yourself

  • It is important to realise that a person’s alcohol and/or other drug use will only change when they are ready to change it. Worry and taking care of a person with alcohol and/or other drug use problems can result in  getting burnt out or feeling overwhelmed. This could lead to you trying to force them to change their behaviours;
  • it is okay to ask for help as you need support too;
  • allow yourself to experience mixed emotions over the situation;
  • take time to do things for yourself. It is important that you continue to feel good about yourself;
  • keep in contact with other people in your social circles and maintain your own social network;
  • people in situations similar to you can find that it’s difficult trying to be a ‘carer’ as well as a friend or partner, etc. Try to spend quality, relaxed time with the person, to maintain your relationship with them;
  • be aware that supporting someone through their alcohol and/or other drug use issue could trigger feelings and memories from your own past experiences;
  • remember that when caring for someone affected by alcohol and/or other drug use you have options as well. in some cases it may become unsafe for you to stay in a situation if you feel it is impacting negatively on you and;
  • remember there are services that can offer you support, including acon’s substance support service (see service list for contact details).

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