By Christine Murray, HRI Director

Turmoil. Despair. Chaos. Uncertainty. Anger. Confusion. Fear.

When a loved one is facing an addiction, the emotional whirlwind can be intense. It’s normal for people in this situation to move rapidly between different emotions in response to changing circumstances. There may be times of hopelessness, when it feels like the loved one will never change. At other times, hope shines through, such as if the loved one makes a promise to change or seems to be making efforts to stop abusing substances.

Holding onto hope when a loved one is struggling with addiction is a challenging task, especially because it’s not possible to know what the future holds. Many questions arise:

  • Will they be okay?
  • Will they ever change?
  • Can we maintain a close relationship, despite the stress?
  • Am I helping them, or hurting them?
  • What am I supposed to do when they ____________________________?
  • Who should I tell about this?
  • How do I keep them safe?
  • How do I keep myself and others safe?

For many of these questions, answers are hard to come by. You may find an answer one day, and then something new happens and the answer no longer applies by the next day. The experience of “walking on eggshells,” or feeling like you’re under constant stress while trying to figure out the next step, is common when someone you love is abusing substances.

As we’ve discussed in a previous HRI blog series, facing relationship chaos is very difficult, but there are things that you can do to care for yourself, others, and your relationship even in the midst of great uncertainty and chaos. These include remembering that you can’t change the other person, focusing on yourself and what you can control, committing to your own sense of integrity, setting appropriate boundaries, maintaining strong relationship skills and a positive attitude, reaching out for support, and seeking professional help. You may not be able to change the difficult things happening around you, but you can change how you respond to them.

In the context of a loved one facing an addiction, hope can take many forms. There’s hope that the loved one will change. Hope that things will get better. Hope for a better relationship. And hope for a brighter future. Hope is defined as “desiring with expectation” or “expecting with confidence.” However, when a loved one is facing an addiction, it can leave you unsure of what to expect and feeling far from confident.

So, how does someone hold on to hope in the face of an uncertain future? Throughout this series on how addiction impacts the family, it is our hope that you have gained information and learned about resources that offer you a sense of hopefulness. By better understanding how addictions can impact family members, you’re in a better position to choose responses that will help you move toward a more positive future. By knowing that help is available–for you and/or your loved one–you can understand that you don’t have to face addiction on your own.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with the challenges associated with a loved one abusing substances, be encouraged by knowing that you are not alone. Many other people have walked through a similar journey and have come out on the other side with a more positive life and stronger relationships. Although Recovery Month ends today, the need to offer support and resources to families impacted by addiction will continue until all families who are impacted by substance abuse are able to hold on to hope.

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