When Substance Abuse Affects the Family

This article is by Practical Recovery


When someone in your family is struggling with addiction, it can be complicated, exhausting, and confusing. You must find a delicate balance between being supportive and protecting your own boundaries. Navigating through this environment is often times draining and most families have questions. If you are experiencing problematic substance use in your family, there is support for you. It is important to realize that drug and alcohol use can affect the entire family and it’s wise for family members to get help as well. Below are a few common questions shared by family members of those with problematic substance use issues.

Substance Abuse Support for Families Q&A

Do I have to stop loving my family member who has a substance use issue?

No. You will need to draw boundaries with this family member, but you can, and mostly likely will, always love them. The key is to be supportive without adding to the substance use. That is, don’t go grab drinks with your brother if he drinks problematically, but support him in doing healthy activities that will fill the time with healthy activities. Your love and support is actually a very critical factor before, during, and after treatment.

Am I letting myself be abused?

Psychology Today discusses five must-do things for family members of addicts, one of which includes not letting yourself be abused—this can include physical, financial, and emotional abuse. Abuse can sometimes be a by-product of substance use, as drugs and alcohol can cause extreme mood swings and irritability. You can still support your family member without allowing yourself to be hurt.

How can I talk to my loved one about their substance use?

Often times, family members of addicts are concerned as to how to have the conversation around the alcohol or drug of choice. It would be beneficial to speak with a counselor about a few of the best ways to approach a family member as this is a highly sensitive and emotional situation. Make sure to approach the situation in non-forceful environment.

Am I helping my loved one cover up their substance use?

It is important to be aware of what is going on in your family member/loved one’s life. If you turn a blind eye to the problematic substance use, you are actually enabling the behavior. Take inventory of all of the red flags you have seen and ensure that you are not helping the addict cover up the abuse in any way. Although it may be difficult, start the conversation with other family members or friends to discuss if they have also seen some of the warning signs. You can then work together to take the first steps in finding help for your loved one. It is always easier to go about this with a support system rather than completely alone.

Will my loved one be mad at me if I set up an intervention?

Traditional interventions are sometimes a bit confrontational, and thus many family members are hesitant when considering options for getting their loved into treatment. Today, there are a number of options for non-traditional intervention techniques, including a less-confrontational approach referred to as Community Reinforcement and Family Training approach (CRAFT). The CRAFT approach is an alternative to the traditional 12-step based intervention process.

One way to help your family member get into treatment is to look into counseling for you or affected family members to discuss healthy ways to respond to the individual’s substance use. Here at Practical Recovery we can help you take the first step in learning more about the best ways to approach your family member in a loving and supportive way. Individual, couple, and family counseling sessions are a good place to start the road to getting loved ones into treatment without the feelings of being forced. Loving someone who has a substance use issue is hard, and we are here to help navigate this confusing path. Visit our website or call us to learn more.

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