Addiction is a disease that not only affects the person with the substance use disorder (SUD), but also those surrounding them. As a friend or family member to someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol, you could be confused, frustrated, stressed, scared, and unsure of how to help the person you love.
Although you cannot force your loved one to change their ways, there are ways to help them and to take care of yourself during this difficult time.
Effects of Addiction on the Family
It’s no surprise many people refer to addiction as a “family disease.”
While your loved one is probably struggling with many side effects of their addiction, there’s a chance that you’re contending with a lot too, such as:1
- Economic strain due to helping your loved one pay their bills, legal costs, or deal with other expenses.
- Emotional hardship as a result of feeling angry, anxious, worried, depressed, guilty, or embarrassed.
- Unhappiness with your relationship with your loved one.
- Familial instability, perhaps resulting from abuse or violence.
What may make it harder is the desire to help your loved ones with the difficult consequences of their drug or alcohol use, though in some cases, this may be enabling the continued use of their substance of choice.
Family Member Resources
Remember, you’re not alone in your struggles with managing a loved one who is abusing drugs or alcohol. You can turn to your support network for help, and you can reach out to many organizations that assist families and loved ones of those with substance use disorders.
We are also here for you at Recovery First. On this page you’ll find several different guides to help you learn about addiction, treatment, and recovery, as well as how approach your loved one about their substance abuse. Also, you can reach our Admissions Navigators at any time of the day or night at 954-526-5776 with questions, concerns, and solutions to how to get your loved one the best care for their situation.
We’ve created several guides for family members on the topic of helping a loved one with a substance use disorder. You can find them below:
- Recovery First’s Guide for Families
- Guide for Parents
- Guide for Spouses
- Guide for Children
- Guide for Friends
- Guide for Coworkers/Managers
In all of the guides above, you’ll be able to find helpful information regarding:
- What substance abuse can look like.
- Discussing drug or alcohol abuse with your family member.
- Establishing boundaries in your relationship with your loved one.
- Addiction treatment options.
- The differences between inpatient/residential treatment facilities and outpatient program.
- Different approaches to pay for treatment.
- How you and your loved one’s support network can help their recovery.
What to Remember During This Difficult Time
It may be hard to see the forest through the trees when it comes to your loved one’s addiction, but it’s important to remind yourself that you are not the cause of their addiction, nor can you control or cure it.2
Addiction is a brain disease. Long-term substance abuse and addiction can change your loved one’s brain chemistry: drug or alcohol abuse over time can compromise their ability to choose, and drug use can become compulsive.3 You did not cause the substance abuse.
With that in mind, you can help. Encourage them to see a doctor. Provide them with details about treatment. Let them know how their drug or alcohol abuse is affecting your family.
It’s not easy to have these conversations—there’s a good chance your loved one will be defensive. But with your support, and the help of medical professionals and treatment, they have a chance at recovery.
- Daley, D.C. (2013). Family and social aspects of substance use disorders and treatment. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 21(4), S73-S76.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Remember the 7 Cs.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment, a research-based guide (third edition).