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9 Tips for Families Affected by Substance Addiction

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What is addiction?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using certain substances, such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems.”

Who does addiction effect?

According to a 2017 report, 1 in 7 Americans suffer from a substance addiction and approximately 21 million have at least one addiction.

Those fighting addiction likely suffer from both mental and physical issues, but it’s important to recognize that the friends and family members of addicts are directly affected as well.

Living with a drug or alcohol-addicted loved one can cause a large amount of stress and tension, feelings of guilt and blame, etc. We fully understand how difficult it can be, so with the help of our behavioral health doctors, we’ve put together a list of helpful tips for anyone experiencing this type of situation.

Tips to cope when a loved one has an addiction:

  1. Learn about addiction

Understanding what your loved one is going through can be helpful to both you and them. Recognizing characteristics of their addiction will allow you to better help them. As a part of your research, look up local recovery programs, especially those with 12-step programs. These types of programs have had great success in helping people get sober by involving family members too. 

  1. Reach out for professional help… for YOU

The individual struggling with addiction will likely benefit from counseling...but don’t forget about yourself! Seeking professional help is nothing to be ashamed of. There are family therapy programs available that can address everything you are going through. Reach out for help. Seeking help via counseling for yourself or through a support group like Al-anon can help you navigate boundaries.

  1. Think positively

Though it can be difficult to do, try and think positively. When you are emitting positivity and encouragement, not only will you feel better, the person struggling will too. Let them know addiction is treatable and go over any potential treatment options with them.

  1. Protect yourself

Your safety matters! Never put yourself in potentially dangerous situations. If something doesn’t feel right, say something. Call a friend for help, or if the matter is urgent, don’t hesitate to call 911.

  1. Practice self-care

As we mentioned, supporting someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can cause a great deal of stress. Stress affects the body in a variety of negative ways. Weight gain, lack of sleep, anxiety, and depression are just a few examples of what stress can lead to. Take care of yourself and schedule time for you. Make time for yoga, a massage, meditation, going for a walk, or any activity that brings you joy and gives your mind a break.

  1. Never blame yourself

Its human nature to blame ourselves when things aren’t going right, but please remember, this is NOT your fault. You can’t control another person’s addiction, you can only control how you respond. Be supportive, but allow the person with the addiction to take responsibility.

  1. Set boundaries

Setting personal boundaries is important when dealing with addiction and allows for supportive and respectful communication from both parties. If the addicted family member or friend lives with you, set boundaries around money and handing out resources. Let them know if they are not willing to get help or willing to work on their sobriety, you will no longer pay for things they need, give them cash, etc. To learn more about setting boundaries for addiction recovery, check out this article:

  1. Don’t be an enabler

Making excuses for a person struggling with addiction doesn’t help anyone. There’s a difference between wanting to help and engaging in behavior that fosters the addiction. Be careful not to cross that line.

  1. Join a support group

You are not alone on this journey. There are many other families struggling with addiction, likely in your area. Research local support groups, or virtual support groups (Facebook is a great place to start!), and get involved. Talking with other people who are going through the same or similar things as you can be very therapeutic. Signature Health also provides support for family members.

If you or a loved one need help with an addiction now, call Signature Health. We’re here for you.


Signature Health presents the information in this blog as a resource for our community. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice, to establish a physician-patient relationship, or to endorse any particular entity or service.