For Families Dealing with Addiction

“According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017.” It can be a stressful and confusing time dealing and living with a loved one in the grips of addiction, but there are dozens of ways to help. Families play a large part in an addicts recovery. Through support, education, and compassion, you can push your loved one to tackle this life-threatening condition. Here is some advice for families dealing with addiction.

Educate Yourself

Know the signs and clues that someone might be using. Having an understanding and being aware of the signs is half. Having an underlying knowledge of the discoveries being made about addiction can empower a family and increase their sense of hope, which can be helpful in times of duress. This will instill you with the confidence needed to power through and help your loved one find recovery while arming you with an arsenal of tips and tools to keep yourself involved and active in the process.
Similarly, by educating yourself, you remove the stigma of addiction and the blame. Addiction stems from changes in brain chemistry, from electrical impulse alterations. Stubbornness, weakness, and willfulness are not the root of a substance abuse disorder. Understanding this is the first step toward healing.

Find resources online – there are dozens of articles just a click away. Books detailing the chemistry of addiction and the science of treatment are also available at libraries and most modern bookstores. Eliminate naivete too. It’s easy to fall into the habit of believing someones lies even when there’s evidence to suggests otherwise. This is a fatal mistake. Take note. Ask questions. Face red flags head on. That can mean the difference between life and death, between saving someone before they become too far gone.

Connect with Others

Addiction in a close relative can create mental health problems for years and serve as a stressful life situation that persists for the long-term. Communication problems, mistrust. Of course, there are many resources that you can take advantage of in order to find support. Join a support group that helps family members of addicts.

Groups like Al-Anon, which helps families dealing with addiction, will give you the tools you need to be happy whether the person you love is abusing substances or not. They also offer a safe space for family members to learn about or discuss their experiences without judgment. That said, it’s important to tackle this together – find support from coworkers, friends, and family members close to your addicted loved one. If it comes down to it, stage an intervention.

Stage an Intervention

When staging an intervention your end goal here is simple. To motivate the person to get help for their substance abuse. You want to establish a unified front in confronting any residual denial the addicted loved one may have. Make a plan – that is the first step to staging an intervention. An in-depth course of action on how to proceed can put everyone attending the intervention on the same page. Proper planning can make the difference between a successful intervention and one that just leads to more destruction or chaos. Articulate your feelings calmly, respectfully, and clearly. Express to the addicted person how their disease affects you.

Explain how their behavior has affected you. A successful intervention can give an addict the support they need to seek help and take the first step toward recovery.
Hire a professional to help. There are plenty of professional intervention programs for families dealing with addiction. These moments can be filled with tension and a professional counselor can easily diffuse a situation that seems to be getting out of hand. Remember that your addicted loved one might not be ready to hear about themselves. More often than not, they will be resistant to change and to seeking treatment, but do not be discouraged. Many people who seem unwilling to adapt but enter addiction treatment following an intervention do very well. A professional intervention, though not always necessary, might be advisable in a situation where your addicted loved one is likely to become hostile or violent.

Manage Expectations

Be realistic. Hope is a great thing to have, but it can be overwhelming as well. The issue is being addressed! Things will be better now, right? Remember that recovery is not an overnight process. It’s also not completely linear. There will be missteps and mistakes. Associate some time with the healing process, slow shifts toward rather than leaps and bounds. There are pitfalls involved in the process, and it’s important to be patient. Families of addicts can measure their own expectations by reminding themselves that recovery takes work and support and love.

It can be frustrating to watch someone struggle, can be infuriating to watch them fall off the wagon after making progress. Remember to come from a place of compassion. They need you more than ever now.

Get Support for Yourself

It is difficult to be present for other’s when you are not present yourself. When dealing with a loved one suffering from addiction, it is important to check in with yourself. This might feel selfish. It might be difficult to step away to attend to your needs, but don’t allow yourself to be so consumed by the desire to help that you let your self-care go to the wayside. Eat right. Sleep. Schedule your own private appointments with a therapist. Exercise. Stay cognizant of your mental health as this is surely a stressful time. It is crucial that your check in with your mind and body at this moment and stay on top of your own needs.

Often, family members with addiction experience their own lives changing throughout the process of getting their loved ones to help. Employment, housing, personal relationships… These might all be at stake, so it is important that you seek professional help. In these instances, a counselor will also be able to offer your support and advice on how to proceed. Set personal boundaries and do not allow yourself to become too enmeshed in their downward spiral. Therapy is crucial for families dealing with addiction.


The best way to stop addiction in its path is to advocate to break the stigma, to donate to help promote addiction research, and to spread awareness of the effects of this disease on not only the addict themselves but their families.