Is there a cannabis addict in the house? Self-care and how to look after yourself when it all gets too much

When someone you love is addicted to cannabis and not interested in quitting, it's important to have self-care strategies in place to look after yourself.

Self-care

At our National Cannabis Helpline (1800 30 40 50), we often get calls from parents or caregivers who are concerned about their child’s cannabis use and the effects it is having on their lives. They call wanting advice on the usual things like how they can have a conversation with them about their use; how they can help the person they care about to quit or reduce their use, and how they can get up-to-date information about cannabis and its effects. Their primary focus is usually on how they can help their child or loved one, and much less often, on what effect their child or family member’s use is having on them.

Help! I’m at my wits end – my child is addicted to cannabis

Although it’s not a conscious thought many parents have, because they are so concerned about their child, it is important to think about how you are coping. How are you dealing with the constant strain of being a parent or a caregiver to someone with cannabis use issues? Your ‘child’, who may be still living with you, could be over the age of 18, so maybe you feel like you’ve got limited authority to tell them how to act or what to do. Perhaps you’ve already had the conversation with your child (many times) about how cannabis might be negatively affecting them, and how you really, really want them to quit. Maybe you’ve already researched methods and services to help your child quit, and suggested to them in both subtle and not so subtle ways that they should access these services. But your child just isn’t interested. They just don’t want to quit smoking weed, or they feel they can’t. So nothing changes.

In these situations, it’s really important, as a parent or caregiver, you move into self-care mode. It doesn’t mean you’re not there for your child, but you need to prioritise your own health and wellbeing, in addition to trying to help them.

How to look after yourself: create a Self-Care Plan

One of the best things you can do to protect your own wellbeing is to create a plan of what you’ll do and who you’ll turn to when it all gets too much. A kind of ‘Self-Care Plan’. Create a list of trusted friends and family members (who don’t live with you), who you can talk with whenever you feel overwhelmed. It’s important you choose people you feel comfortable talking to about your child’s cannabis use problems, who won’t judge you or cause you to feel embarrassed. Perhaps let health professionals who you regularly see, like your GP, know about the problems you’re experiencing, so there is someone who’s aware of what’s happening if you need to reach out to them.

Also, make a list of the types of activities that help you de-stress. Maybe it’s yoga, going for a walk, taking a long hot bath, spending time with your dog, getting a massage or working on a jigsaw puzzle. Whatever works for you. So when you need to let go of some steam, you’ve got some ideas about what works best for you.

How to look after yourself when you feel physically threatened

While it is often stated in the media that weed is the drug of peace and harmony, many family and loved ones know this is not necessarily the case – especially when cannabis users are intentionally or unintentionally in withdrawal. If you feel like your physical safety may ever be compromised by the behaviour of your child or loved one, it’s good to know what you’ll do in that situation as well. Many parents would be extremely reluctant to call the police if they ever felt threatened by their child’s behaviour, especially when drugs may be involved. As a parent you don’t want to see your child arrested by the police and receive a possible criminal record or jail time. You just want to ensure your own safety and that of the rest of the family. In this case, add to your list of people to reach out to, the name of someone who is physically strong and you feel confident would be able to come around to your house and physically handle the situation in a calm and confident manner, without inflaming the situation.

No one wants to have a child who is addicted to cannabis and can’t seem to help themselves. It’s a very stressful situation. While it is good to do everything you can to help them, you also need to look after yourself and make sure you’re prioritising self-care and care for other vulnerable family members in this difficult situation.

For more information on how to help as a parent, check out our Parents FAQs page, or download our brochure Concerned about someone’s cannabis use? Fast facts on how to help. You can also call the great people at our Cannabis Helpline on 1800 30 40 50 for a chat, to vent, or for some advice.

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