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Substance Abuse and Caregiving: When to Ask for Help for Your Own Health and Well-Being

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Substance Abuse and Caregiving: When to Ask for Help for Your Own Health and Well-Being

Whether you are a caregiver for an aging parent with the first signs of dementia or a client with debilitating chronic pain, caregiving is one of the toughest jobs there is. According to the National Caregiver Alliance, more than 40 million people have provided unpaid care to a child or an adult in the last year. Not only is this job physically demanding, but it can be emotionally challenging and mentally stressful as well. From physical exhaustion to feelings of guilt and depression, many caregivers suffer from burnout, which can lead some people to using drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their pain.

Caregiving can be a very rewarding experience and fulfilling career, but the high-stress lifestyle can put you at risk for alcohol and substance abuse. This not only hurts your health and well-being, but also the life of the person you are caring for. Using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress creates a cycle of negative emotions, leaving you constantly wracked with guilt and frequently returning to those same substances to ease the pain. You may feel isolation (because you think there’s no one to talk to) or shame (because you believe you should be able to handle this), but this is just the pressure and the addiction talking. There is help, and there is hope.

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