Looking after Yourself

We understand that it is easy to fall into the habit of trying to ‘fix’ someone who has an alcohol or drug problem. Your days start to repeat themselves, you try to make life easier for the person: lending them money, clearing up after them, phoning in sick at work (for both of you), and making appointments for them. You want to make sure the person is safe and that is understandable, but what cost is it to you?

If you can’t put your own mental and physical health first, how can you be strong enough to support someone else? It is not being selfish or in any way a fault of yours. Putting your own needs first is essential.

It may feel like you are on your own and that no one else is going through the same thing. Feelings of being afraid and embarrassed to talk to anyone are usually going through your mind, but alcohol and drug problems are more common than you think. People often face the same common challenges when they are living and dealing with the strain of caring about someone who is misusing alcohol and drugs. You may find that sharing your worries with someone may be the starting steps of support and help.

It’ll be difficult to change your routine of looking after someone else at first. Everyone will find it hard to say ‘no’ at times to someone you care about, but you should be clear and realistic about what you can and cannot do for them. The first steps are usually encouraging someone else to do things for themselves as it can be the push they need. Things may not be done as well or as quickly as you would do it, but that’s okay as it takes time.

Taking some time out in your day for yourself and spending time doing things you enjoy can make a difference. Finding time can be hard and trying to stop your worries and thoughts can make everything difficult, but if you don’t take care of yourself, it won’t be long before you are exhausted and risk damaging your health.

We all have our own way of unwinding and enjoying time to ourselves, even if it’s only for a few moments. By reading a chapter in a book, taking a bath, listening to music, baking a cake or going for a walk outside whatever the weather. Doing things you enjoy can reduce stress levels and can help stop any build-up of anger and exhaustion which can cause arguments with others you care about.

If you find it hard to set some time aside for yourself, you should try writing it down. You are more likely to do something if you write it down as a reminder. Even putting something little on your calendar such as ‘read a magazine’, means you are likely to do it. Try to give yourself little goals each day and you’ll soon start beating stress and enjoying time to yourself.

We have plenty of great skills that will make dealing with everyday life a little bit easier:

Helping you Cope

When you are living with the alcohol or drug use of someone close to you, it can be stressful and disruptive on your health and everyday life. Many of us react in similar but different ways:

  • Thinking you can deal with what’s going on and control it
  • Thinking you are responsible for or can fix things
  • Focusing on the other person rather than looking out for yourself

We all usually find ways that help us cope and calm stress. Over time you may find certain ways of coping work better for you than others. Some people cope over long periods of time and some may only look at getting by one day at a time.

To help understand how you are coping, complete this short list of questions.

Don’t do it alone

Trying to deal with everything that’s going on in your life can be tiring and stressful. Unfortunately, many people will be doing this and will find they have no one to turn to. We believe that having a ‘community of support’ around you is helpful. Having people you can turn to, whether it is online, face-to-face, or over the phone, can be a great comfort. There are many communities of support, but they will all have similarities and people will share some of the same experiences as you.

It may be uncomfortable talking to someone you know about a person you care about as you are worried what the person will think and how they will react. There are other ways to start your community of support such as support groups, a one-to-one session, or even an online blog.

Join our community of support – link to take you to the online virtual support.

Support Groups

Support groups can vary in size; some people may want to talk while some might just want to listen. Although everyone will have different experiences, many of the feelings and thoughts are the same. The groups are a safe place where you can find a bit of peace, talk with others, get things off your chest, make friends, and often have the opportunity to get involved in new activities and events.

“Coming to the group is great as you are talking to people in the same situation. I can empathise with these people. Getting things out of my system rather than bottling it up.”

Family Member


If you are not ready to go along to a group or would rather speak with someone on your own, one-to-one sessions are available for most services. Sometimes being able to talk to someone you don’t know helps. Usually, your one-to-one will be with a professional who will be there to listen, offer some advice and suggest different ways of dealing with the situation. They are there to listen and sometimes that’s all you need to make yourself feel a bit better.


Stigma surrounds us every day. The stigma that comes with alcohol and drug use though is huge – we hear from newspapers, TV shows, films, etc. that people who misuse alcohol or drugs are looked down on, judged, and labelled. Stigma can make people embarrassed, isolated, and too afraid to get help and too afraid to tell people about what’s going on.

Stigma is tough on families but it can also stop or get in the way of people recovering from alcohol or drug use as they are too afraid to get help or let anyone know.

We all can join the movement to change stigma. Even so much as changing the language you use when talking about someone who has an alcohol or drug problem, or correcting someone who uses a stigmatising word such as ‘junkie’. Sometimes people are unaware of how easy it is to bring someone down and stop them from seeking help.

Using your voice by sharing your stories, or by commenting on a news article or blog someone has written, can start a movement for change.

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