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Self-care is important when you have a child who is addicted to drugs or alcohol

Family supportDoes this sound familiar?

“It’s like having someone punch you in the stomach. You’re never the same from the second you find out.”

Those are the words of one mother of four whose two sons have both struggled with addictions to drugs. And if you’re in the same boat, you may be wondering how to cope. How to juggle the challenge of supporting a loved one but not enabling their habit, while still caring for other children, a spouse—and yourself.

Whether it’s to drugs or alcohol, addiction destroys families, just as it destroys individuals. Living with an addict is heartbreaking and exhausting—so it’s important for parents to take care of themselves.


  • Remember, you can’t force another person to change. You can’t control another person’s decisions. You can only control yourself.
  • Don’t take over his/her responsibilities. Don’t do things for the addict that they can (or should) do for themselves.
  • Talk to a professional therapist and/or attend a support group. Discovering that you’re not alone can help you heal and give you hope. You can get practical tips from other parents when sharing your stories and experiences. And there are many great addiction resources online for parents, where you can seek support whenever you need it.
  • Enjoy your other children or grandchildren, if you have them. Make sure you don’t focus all your time and emotional energy on the negatives.
  • Allow yourself to have fun. It’s so easy to isolate yourself, but make the time to get out, engage with others, and do things you enjoy. Go out for a meal or coffee with a friend, your spouse or a partner. Get some exercise or get a massage. Enjoy your hobbies, such as going to movies, gardening, reading or playing sports. Take time to relax, breathe, and enjoy simple pleasures.
  • Practice conscious gratitude. Regularly, if not every day, take a few minutes to focus on what is positive in your life. You may want to write these things in a journal or a post-it-note. Remember to look at the big picture and remember that life is about more than your problems.
  • Try not to define your day, or your life, by what the addict you love is doing— or not doing.

As a parent, you worry about your kids and want to help them when something is wrong. But just as you’re supposed to put on the oxygen mask first when you’re on a plane that loses cabin pressure, you have to take care of yourself in order to help your child. For more help and support, please feel free to contact Horizon Health Services any time at (716) 831-1800.