14 Best Ways to Help a Family Member Struggling With Addiction

Read these tips on how to help an addicted friend or relative, including how to support a loved one with an addiction.

People who are struggling with addiction often suffer from an overwhelming sense of shame and disappointment, which manifests in different ways. They may withdraw socially, lash out aggressively, or they might even attempt to compensate for their feelings by engaging in addictive behaviors. When a loved one is struggling with addiction, it can be challenging to know how best to help them on the path toward recovery. The following fourteen strategies will provide you with some ideas for supporting your family members as they navigate this challenging time.

14 Best Ways to Help a Family Member Struggling With Addiction
Ways to Help a Friend Struggling with Addiction. Image/Shutterstock

#1 Educate Yourself About Addiction

First, you need to understand what your loved one is going through. If you have never been addicted or haven’t experienced the effects of addiction on your life, it can be difficult to recognize that someone who seems successful and happy could also struggle with substance abuse. Educating yourself about how addictive substances work in the brain will help you understand what your loved one is experiencing.

By learning more about the biological and psychological factors surrounding addiction, you will be able to approach your family member with empathy rather than judgment. You will also be in a better position to help them find the right treatment.

#2 Look for Professional Treatment

Trying to help someone with addiction on your own is a difficult task. If you try to force them into recovery, they will likely resist, and the situation may escalate quickly. Seeking out professional assistance through rehabilitation centers or substance abuse recovery programs can make all of the difference in helping a loved one find happiness again. Through these services, addicts can find a supportive environment to get the treatment and assistance needed to recover from addiction.

#3 Show Them Love and Support

Your family member’s addiction may have caused a great deal of pain in your life, but they need to know that they are not alone as they work through their recovery process.

You need to tell them how much you love and care for them. It’s also important to show your support through actions, such as attending treatment sessions with them or offering encouragement during times of relapse. Praise their efforts towards sobriety when they are acting responsibly, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

#4 Avoid Lecturing

This is especially important for individuals who are newly sober or in recovery. Many family members of addicted people believe that by saying certain things, their loved ones will stop using drugs and alcohol. However, addiction isn’t something you can just tell someone to stop.

If you want to help your family member, avoid lecturing them and instead focus on supporting the recovery process by staying sober yourself or helping their efforts in any way that you can. Your family member is already well aware of how their addiction has negatively impacted your life. Lecturing them could make your loved ones feel worse about themselves if they believe you are telling them what to do. Instead, focus on offering support.

#5 Be Part of the Healing Process

You need to be an active participant in their treatment plan. Participate with them and offer support as they work toward sobriety, and be open about any changes you feel like you need to make in your own life while they are recovering.

Include them in your everyday routine, and remember to treat everyone as equals, not as a person suffering from addiction who has no power over their own lives. It’s important to continue on with life as normal by including all family members together for meals, watching television or going out for an evening walk.

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*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

#6 Understand That Treatment Is Not a Cure

Recovery from addiction is a long process, and there are no easy fixes for substance abuse or alcohol dependency. Still, professional treatment can help your family members find their way back to happiness without drugs or alcohol in their life.

While there’s the possibility of remission, addiction is a chronic disease managed with treatment. It’s important to realize that your loved ones will likely have relapses as they work toward sobriety. These instances should not discourage you from continuing to support their efforts towards recovery.

#7 Offer a Safe Place to Live

If your family member lives in an environment where drugs and alcohol are readily available, it can be difficult for them to stay sober. To help someone recover from addiction, you need to provide them with a safe place to live so that they have the opportunity to rebuild their life without temptations.

#8 Stop Enabling the Addiction

Helping a family member recover from addiction means that you have to stop enabling their addictive behavior. Loved ones often enable addicts, whether they realize it or not. Stop feeling sad for them when undergoing withdrawal symptoms, don’t purchase drugs or alcohol for them, and stop bailing them out of legal trouble. They need to face the consequences of their actions to learn from their mistakes without continuing to repeat them in the future.

By enabling the addiction, family members allow their loved ones to continue with destructive behaviors that keep them chained to substance abuse issues. You must establish firm boundaries and enforce consequences if those boundaries are crossed.

#9 Respect Their Privacy

While you are trying to help your family members recover from addiction, it can be easy to feel disheartened by the lack of privacy.

They might need time alone or away from their home environment to process what they have gone through and develop strategies that will help them resist temptation moving forward. Respect your loved one’s privacy, but also make sure to let them know that you are available if they need anything.

Offering your family members love and support without invading their personal space is important in helping someone recover from addiction.

#10 Know the Signs of Relapse

It can be difficult to know the signs of a possible relapse, but there are some common warning signs that you should look out for.

If your loved one is being secretive or avoiding certain topics during conversations, it could be a sign that they have relapsed and don’t want to share this information with you. Other red flags include returning to old friends or old behaviors and avoiding family members. When you know these signs, you can take the necessary steps to help your loved one recover.

#11 Encourage Your Loved One to Join Peer Support Groups

Peer support groups can be a great source of strength for people struggling with addiction. These groups are often filled with members who have similar stories, and they know how difficult it can be to recover from active drug or alcohol abuse issues. They understand what your loved one is going through emotionally, and can offer both empathy and guidance.

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*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

#12 Be Patient During Recovery

Even after your loved one completes rehab or substance abuse programs, there will be ups and downs as their body adjusts to life without drugs or alcohol. Recovery from addiction is often a long and difficult journey. It’s important to be patient with your family members as they work towards sobriety and continue their addiction treatment programs.

Be available to talk when needed, but also allow them time alone if they seem overwhelmed by feelings such as anger, guilt, or sadness. Sometimes a little time to process these feelings on their own can help recover addicts as they adjust to life without drugs or alcohol in the picture.

#13 Be Aware of Triggers

Even after someone recovers from an addiction, they might still be vulnerable to triggers that cause them to relapse in the future. Triggers are memories or behaviors that remind a person about their past addictions, which stimulates cravings for substances again. They may also trigger negative emotions that make an addict want to escape their problems by using drugs or alcohol again.

Family members need to be aware of these triggers and learn how to avoid them not to derail the recovery process for someone trying hard not to slip back into addiction. You can start this awareness process by sitting down with your loved ones and making a list of the triggers that might cause them to relapse.

#14 Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of a family member suffering from addiction can be stressful and sometimes debilitating. You need to take steps every day to help you manage your stress levels, such as exercising regularly or practicing deep breathing exercises. It might even seem counterintuitive at first when someone is in the process of recovering from drug abuse, but you should also make time for yourself to avoid burnout.

By taking care of your own needs, you’ll be better able to help your family members recover from addiction and create a more stable environment where they can grow into sobriety with support.

During recovery, your family member may need all of the support they can get from friends and loved ones. Be there when they need someone to talk to or when they need aid with daily tasks. Offering your help can make all of the difference in their recovery process, so be willing to assist whenever you are required.

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Lauren Ann, MS

Lauren has dual graduate degrees in Clinical Psychotherapy and Nutrition, espousing an integrative approach to optimizing overall healt

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