You are not alone. At the very least, nearly 1.5 million adults in the UK are affected by a relative’s drug use.
You may have to do a lot for the person you care for, including cooking meals and helping look after them when they are ill due to their addiction. However, it is likely that you provide a lot of emotional support. This still means that you are a carer.
It is very important to talk to someone about the caring you do and how this affects you. You may also be able to get practical help to make coping easier and to help you better understand addiction.
Talk to someone and find support
If you are affected by someone else’s drinking or drug use you may be worried about telling people. But if you don’t talk about your feelings and experiences you make yourself feel worse.
Start by contacting your local carer service. They will be able to offer you a range of support and some carers' centres have workers that specialise in helping people who care for someone with substance misuse problems. They will be able to give you a chance to talk to someone, find practical help, and join support groups.
You may find it hard to claim Carer’s Allowance unless the person you care for is on Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Ask your local carer service how to find out which benefits you might be entitled to.
Organisations that can help
There are also lots of organisations that may be able to help you:
- Adfam - information, local support groups and helplines for anyone affected by someone else’s substance use. Adfam's guide for carers is a good starting point to help you answer these questions and more.
- Al-Anon Family Groups - provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking, regardless of whether that person is still drinking or not.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Families Anon - helpline for relatives and friends concerned about drug use.
- Frank - free national drugs helpline
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- National Association for Children of Alcoholics - information, advice and support for everyone affected by a parent’s drinking.
- The Royal College of Psychiatry also have a factsheet for carers about alcohol, drugs and addition. It includes advice on what sort of questions to ask and what this process may involve.
Coping and setting boundaries
If you are you affected by someone else’s drinking or drug use you will need to learn coping skills and how to set boundaries. Adfam have pdfs that can help with coping skills, and setting & keeping boundaries (these links go straight to the pdf). Your local carer service may also be able to help. You can ask to talk to someone or they may offer special workshops to learn these skills in a supportive environment.
Make sure you have a carer’s assessment
A carer's assessment is a chance to discuss your needs with your local council. It is free and your local council will use it to decide what support to give you.
Next update due: June 2017