Living with someone suffering from addiction can be challenging at the best of times but the current COVID-19 lockdown is likely to be compounding the difficulties you are experiencing.
It is important to realise that there is still help available to you and your loved one suffering from addiction and, if needed, you should not hesitate to seek it.
We have put together some useful information below including how to look after yourself and your loved one.
During lock down active addicts might:
- Become agitated as their supply dwindles and going out to replenish it becomes more complicated
- Experience social withdrawal as they are no longer able to see their usual circle of fellow users
- Experience “cabin fever” as they are no longer able to maintain their usual routine
- Use more frequently than usual to alleviate the boredom and ward of anxieties related to the COVID-19 crisis
- Experience feelings of paranoia as conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic are rife all over social media
Recovering addicts might:
- Experience stronger cravings than usual, as the added stress of lockdown gets to them
- Become anxious about losing their support system as they are no longer able to attend support groups
- Feel overwhelmed by the disruption of their hard-won routines – especially if they are no longer able to go out to work/have temporarily lost employment due to pandemic related closures
Dealing with an addict during lockdown
Here are some useful guidelines to keep yourself safe when dealing with an addict during lockdown:
- Make sure you have emotional support – this can come from friends, family or professional support persons
- Remember that you cannot control your loved one’s behaviour
- Learn about addiction as an illness
- Set healthy boundaries (i.e. stand firm on the restrictions of lockdown, now is not the time to have gatherings at your home, even if you might have previously preferred your loved one to use their substance of choice in the safety of your premises)
- Listen to your loved one when they are willing to talk
- Look after yourself – eat well, get sleep, exercise, leave the house for a breather
- Find out about addiction treatment options in your area, so you will be ready when your loved one wants to start their recovery
- Don’t try to shield your loved one from the consequences of their addiction (i.e. pay their rent, buy their groceries)
- Don’t make excuses for your loved one when they neglect their responsibilities at work, school or home
- Don’t search the house for alcohol, drugs and paraphernalia
- Don’t berate, lecture or nag your loved one about their substance abuse
- Stay away from ultimatums and emotional blackmail (i.e. If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this!)
- Don’t let your loved one draw you into endless rounds of passing the blame or justifying their behaviour
- Don’t get into arguments when your loved one is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Don’t take your loved one’s outbursts personally and do not take on the responsibility for their condition
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you could solve your loved one’s substance abuse problems, if only you tried hard enough
Starting addiction treatment during lockdown
Being in lockdown your loved may be more willing to undertake a residential addiction treatment program. Not only would this be beneficial to your loved one, but it will remove any immediate issues that you are facing.
If your loved one enters into addiction treatment during lockdown, it will allow you to focus on your own needs for a while, without feeling as though you are neglecting your loved one.
The temptation to enable your loved one’s addiction, just to keep the peace during an unprecedented situation like a lockdown, can be strong.
However, once you begin to learn about the cycle of addiction, you will realise that any crisis in an addict’s life has the potential to become a turning point.
By enabling your loved one’s addiction and protecting them from the consequences of their actions, you are doing them a disservice. Yes, watching your loved one suffer is heart-breaking; but you never know which disaster may be the catalyst for permanent change.
We recommend taking the time to learn more about enabling.
Actively seeking out online support groups ( i.e. https://thefirststop.org.au/family-support-services/) for friends and family of addicts can feel a little odd at first; after all, you’re not the one struggling with substance abuse, so you may not think that you are in need – or even deserving – of help. It’s only normal to feel a little weird about taking such a big step, but you will be surprised how much it can improve your situation.
Let’s face it: Loving an addict is hard, especially if you live together.
It’s a constant emotional strain, it often goes hand in hand with financial struggles, and the unrelenting feeling of uncertainty is incredibly draining.
Families and friends of addicts commonly experience strong feelings of helplessness, inadequacy and anxiety; they can become depressed and socially isolated under normal circumstances – but in exceptional situations like this it is absolutely essential to take steps to ensure you don’t become completely disconnected from the outside world.
Support groups, if nothing else, will prove conclusively that you are not alone.
Thousands of families and couples are impacted by addiction to drugs and/or alcohol; and even though their struggles may not be identical to yours, there are enough similarities to create common ground for discussion and mutual support.
Simply being in an environment where you don’t need to feel ashamed in some way of your situation can provide incredible relief.
Being able to openly talk about the hurdles you face every day when trying to deal with an addict’s erratic outbursts, unreliability and emotional blackmail, is a very cathartic experience.
Every time you attend a support meeting or even just talk to a support worker on the phone, you will come away stronger, saner and better able to deal with the next curve ball that comes your way.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that your loved one’s addiction should not bring your own life to a stop.
This is of course easier said than done in a national lockdown situation, however, social distancing does not equal a total cessation of socialising.
Even though the Queensland government has asked us to observe self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing rules, you still can
- Go for a walk with a friend
- Visit a friend or family member at home/have them come to your house. Two visitors are allowed on any private premises, although keeping a safe distance while you are hanging out is encouraged
- Go and exercise on your own to clear your mind. Going for a walk/run/bike ride is not a restricted activity.
- Call and/or video call a friend. Just because you can’t hang out at your favourite coffeeshop anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t get a take away brew, make yourself comfortable at home and have a virtual date with a friend or family member.
Where To Get Further Help And Support
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Family Drug Support – National service supporting families affected by alcohol and drugs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 1300 368 186
- CounsellingOnline – Free alcohol and drug counselling online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- ADIN – Australian Drug Information Network
- Al-Anon Support for parents and children of alcoholics – 24-hour Help Line 1300 252 666
Domestic Violence in Lockdown
Stressful situations, like the current COVID-19 crisis, often see an increase in domestic violence and when living with an addict, you fall into a higher risk category to experience this. If your loved one is showing signs of becoming violent towards you or others in your home – or if you fear they might turn to violence – it is important to know where to turn.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queensland government has approved substantial monetary support for Domestic Violence Support Services, so do not hesitate to contact any of the following services for help and advice:
- 1800 RESPECT – 24 hours national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line
- https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/family-and-domestic-violence – Information and contacts provided by Services Australia
- https://au.reachout.com/articles/domestic-violence-support – This site provides articles, check lists and general advice if you are uncertain of your domestic situation
- Brisbane Domestic Violence Service – or call (07) 3217 2544
NOTE: If your loved one is having a violent outburst and you and/or members of your household are in immediate danger, you must call 000. Queensland police takes domestic violence calls very seriously and will come to your assistance immediately.