In Hudson Valley this month, 18 people were arrested and charged after a joint operation that included federal, state, and local authorities and culminated in a drug bust. More than $25,000 in cash was seized in addition to four handguns, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. This is one of many drug busts that happened across the state in the past month as officials work hard to identify groups responsible for selling drugs on the black market and take them, and their product, off the street.
For families living with a member facing active addiction, these drug busts are little solace. It is also hard to find any measure of relief in the constant discussions in the media about the various political changes and legislation that are proposed and altered every week. Very few of these events seem to have a direct impact on daily life for families that are struggling with the emotional, spiritual, and physical hardship that defines addiction. In fact, in most cases, families are hit just as hard by a loved one’s addiction as the individual living with the disorder.
They often face difficulties with:
- Relationships at home: It is not just the relationship with the individual living with an active addiction that is harmed by drug and alcohol use, but relationships among other family members as well. Spousal relationships are strained when a child is fighting a drug use disorder. Relationships between a non-using parent and children can hit the wall when the other parent is drinking and/or using drugs. It is not easy to manage functional and healthy relationships when someone who is living a dysfunctional life is in the house. Tensions run high, and the uncertainty of life in addiction can make it difficult for everyone to relate to each other healthfully.
- Relationships outside of the home: For many families, the fact that one person is living with an addiction is a “secret” they all work hard to keep. Many lie to cover up the consequences of a family member’s drinking and drug use, or simply avoid making connections with people outside the family in order to avoid any potential embarrassment. As a result, many family members carry a sense of shame with them that is isolating and harmful to their ability to forge healthy friendships with people outside of the house.
- Self-care: When family members are in constant triage mode due to a loved one’s addiction, they have little time to focus on themselves. Many postpone or skip getting regular dental checkups or going to the doctor for routine screenings. When ill, they often underplay the issue and forge ahead in taking care of everyone around them. High stress is the norm, and many feel they must be on alert 24 hours a day in the event that there is a crisis that requires their assistance. Getting regular workouts or taking time to eat healthfully or spend time with friends is not even on the agenda, and as a result, many suffer from physical health problems and mental health issues like depression.
- Financial hardship: Not only is addiction expensive for the individual, but it can cost loved ones in spades. Many have to miss work or turn down work opportunities in order to manage what is happening at home. Others find that their healthcare costs, expenses for legal support, and loss due to theft, waste, and damage at home end up breaking the family bank and putting them in financial straits. If the person living with addiction is the primary breadwinner, it can be that much more stressful for the family and the family’s finances as addiction continues from one day to the next.
If your loved one is facing addiction, you know firsthand the toll it can take on everyone in the family. The fact is that you, as the caregiver, require as much support as your loved one in finding your way back to a life that is healthy and balanced. It can feel like a long road when you are taking your first steps, but with the new year ahead, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the fresh start and begin creating a new life for yourself and your loved one.
How will you help your family member connect with the right treatment program in 2018?