Help for Family Members of Drug and/or Alcohol Addiction

family members of addictionSupporting a family member struggling with a drink or drug addiction can be challenging and emotionally draining. Unfortunately, I have had the unfortunate experience of being a family member. Watching someone you know well and love change into a stranger is soul-destroying. Anyone that is dealing with a person with an addiction in the family will know how crippling the anxiety can be. Not knowing where the family member is, if they are drinking again, fear of them ending up in prison, and the worst fear, the fear they will die. My experience of it is that it is like watching someone dying in slow motion.

There are so many emotions to deal with daily. Fear, sadness, grief, anxiety, anger! Oh, the anger! A real test of your patience. The absolute disbelief of it all.

Help for Family Members

Here are some steps you can take to help support your loved one and yourself and take care of yourself:

  • Educate Yourself. Learn about addiction, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Understanding the nature of addiction can help you respond to your family members in a more informed and empathetic manner. Learning about addiction can help you not take everything they do personally. This was a big help to me. But remember that just because you can understand and empathise with their behaviour doesn’t mean it is acceptable.
  • Set Boundaries. Boundaries are paramount when you are dealing with someone with an addiction. Establish clear boundaries with your loved one regarding their addictive behaviour. Let them know what behaviours are acceptable and what consequences will occur if they cross those boundaries. Putting boundaries in place and sticking to them can be challenging, and you may experience uncomfortable feelings around this, but remember you are helping the person with an addiction as well as yourself.
  • Encourage Treatment. Encourage your family members to seek professional help for their addiction. This may include therapy, counselling, support groups, or rehabilitation programs. Offer to help them research treatment options and accompany them to appointments if they’re willing. If they are unwilling or uninterested, you can do nothing about this. They need to be ready to get help for themselves, and nothing you say or do will force recovery.
  • Practice Self-Care. Take care of your physical and emotional wellbeing. Set aside time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, even if you don’t feel like it. Consider joining a support group for families of people with an addiction, where you can connect with others who are going through similar experiences. I found DrugFam excellent. They asked me to tell my story at one of their conferences in London, which was cathartic for me. There are also online and face-to-face 12-step groups that support family members, such as Al-Anon and Families Anonymous.
  • Communicate with Empathy. When talking to your loved one about their addiction, approach the conversation with empathy and compassion. Avoid judgmental language and instead express your concern for their wellbeing. If they don’t want to talk about it, it’s probably best to leave it. They will only get defensive, which may result in an argument, which will use up your energy.
  • Avoid Enabling Behaviors. Refrain from enabling your family member’s addictive behaviour by providing them with money, shelter, or other forms of support that allow them to continue their harmful habits.
  • Seek Professional Help. If the situation becomes too overwhelming to handle on your own, consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in addiction and family dynamics. They can provide you with personalised support and coping strategies.
  • Stay Positive and Patient. Recovery from addiction is a challenging process that takes time and persistence. Hope is difficult to maintain, but sometimes it’s all we have.
  • Prepare for Relapses. Understand that relapses are a common part of the recovery process for many people struggling with addiction. If your family member experiences a setback, support them and encourage them to recommit to their recovery efforts. 
  • Celebrate Progress. Acknowledge and celebrate any progress your loved one makes in their journey towards recovery, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can motivate them to continue their efforts.


Remember that supporting a family member with addiction can be emotionally taxing, so it’s essential to prioritise your wellbeing as well. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support when you need it.