Support Guide For Family Members Of Addicts

It’s no secret that having a loved one in addiction can affect the entire family. family support

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When a member of our family suffers, we all suffer. Statistics show that the children of people who suffer from addiction are more likely to suffer from issues that will lead them into addiction as well. Families also suffer when their loved ones begin to exhibit alternate behaviors that cause them to lie, steal or otherwise manipulate family members in order to continue their drug or alcohol use and abuse.

Over time, the destructive influences of drug use within a family can cause some individuals to feel helpless. but truth be known, families are not helpless when it comes to protecting themselves, and their family member afflicted with the disease of addiction.


One of the first steps or responsibilities a family has is to educate themselves about the disease of addiction. Find a resource in your community and learn about addictions it relates to human behavior and control. Only then will you may be in a better position to understand what your family member is going through. Certainly, the information will not excuse your loved one’s behavior, and you should refrain from using your education as a tool to enable their drug addiction; however, you may find that you can harbor more compassion and less resentment toward your family members when you know more about addiction.

Plan an Intervention

In the past, families and friends of people suffering from addiction were often told that their loved ones had to make the decision to get help for themselves. They would, in essence, be forced to sit back and throw their hands in the air, praying that their son, daughter or parent would “hit rock bottom” before it was too late. In more recent years, the process of the intervention has proven beneficial for some families.

An intervention is a process through which the family and friends of an addict will deliberately confront an addict about the damage they are doing to themselves and the people they love. With the help of a professional interventionist, the addict may begin to see what their disease is costing them in terms of relationships, finances and their health — on both a psychological and physical level.

This, in effect, raises “rock bottom” to meet the addict. Rather than risking serious injury or death as the addict continues to spiral out of control, the family takes control by offering a solution to the addict. If successful, the intervention could prompt the addict to immediately enter a detox facility, followed by a drug and alcohol treatment program. In case this happens, it is important to have a facility ready to accept them immediately. this is huge.

The family’s involvement in the drug treatment process does not end once the addict has agreed to seek treatment, however.

What Is the Family’s Role in Rehab?

There are two major types of rehab for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. The first is performed on an outpatient basis, and the other is usually conducted in a residential or medical facility where the recovering addict is treated as an inpatient.

If the recovering addict is enrolled in an outpatient program, they may need a safe place to stay — away from the influences of drug or alcohol use and abuse — while they complete the program. Families can play a superior role in this endeavor by supplying a safe harbor.

If the recovering addict already lives at home, the family must be willing to make changes to their lifestyle. If the family members are not addicted to alcohol, but consume alcohol responsibly, they can help their loved one by refraining from the consumption of alcohol completely. At the very least, family members should refrain from drinking in front of the recovering addict.

If members of the household also suffer from alcohol or drug addiction but have not yet made the effort to seek recovery and treatment, it is best that the addict reside elsewhere during treatment.

Another aspect of family involvement in outpatient treatment might be providing constant encouragement to the recovering individual. Offering a shoulder to cry on, for instance, can go a long way to helping the addict overcome the cravings associated with withdrawal and recovery. Many times, a recovering addict who feels alone will succumb to the cravings and defeat their own desires to get well. This is due to the changes that occur in the brain. Addiction will lead an individual to continue their use of drugs or alcohol no matter how bad the consequences may be. It is important that they have the physical support of caring family members to help them overcome the disease.

If the recovering addict has decided on inpatient treatment after consulting with their health care professional, the family can still maintain an active role in the recovery process. A few suggestions for helping in this situation might be:

Writing letters of encouragement to the recovering member of their family
Making themselves available for family counseling sessions
Refraining from judgment or condemnation of the individual’s disease
Visiting their family member when it is allowed and encouraged by counselors and staff

As the recovering addict regains their ability to think clearly, they may be humiliated and embarrassed by their behavior. By showing support throughout the process, families can help to restore the self-confidence the recovering addict has been without for some time.
Tips and Tricks for Helping your Family Through the Rehab Process

During the first stage of the recovery process, known as detox, the recovering addict may experience many unpleasant symptoms, including physical illness, insomnia, excessive lethargy or increased appetite.

A few tips to getting through these initial hours can be helpful.

Play games. Keeping the recovering addict’s mind off of what their body is going through can help the time pass more quickly.
Read aloud. Find a favorite childhood book or a new bestseller and pass the time by escaping into a healthy fantasy.
Try not to rehash old hurts. This is not the time to discuss why an individual may have chosen to use drugs for the first time. Conversations surrounding the addiction can lead to blame and undermine the recovery process in its earliest stages. Instead, keep the conversation on a more pleasant note. Talk about the future possibilities that will be available once your family member has successfully completed treatment.
Try to stay awake. If your loved one is suffering from insomnia, try to remain awake with them. This will not only help them through the long hours, but it will also remove the temptation they may have to sneak away and satisfy their cravings for drugs or alcohol.

After the detox phase has ended, the most important tip to help your family make it through the recovery process is to keep a positive attitude. This will not always be easy, as the recovery process is a difficult one. If needed, have each of the family members visit with a counselor or therapist to relieve some of the stress they may be feeling. In cases where the recovering addict is a teen, sessions of multidimensional family therapy have proven to be beneficial to all members of the family as they help to develop increased parenting skills, relationship skills and family management.

Frequently Asked Questions About Addiction

What, exactly, is addiction?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic disease. It is a relapsing brain disease with specific characteristics, including a compulsion to continue using drugs no matter how bad the addict’s life becomes. The addict may suffer from physical illness or mental depression, incur legal problems, lose their job or begin failing in school. None of these consequences matter to the addict while they are in the throes of the disease, however. Families can play an important role in helping the addict understand the power of the addiction over their minds and bodies.

My family member can stop using drugs if they really want to, right?
This is a tricky question. One of the first requirements for a successful recovery treatment program for drug addiction is the desire of the individual to get their life back. However, the desire to stop using drugs is not always enough. When an individual is addicted to drugs, their brain goes through physical, emotional and psychological changes. These changes disturb their ability to make good decisions, interrupt critical thinking, and can even prevent them from controlling their own behavior. In addition to the changes in the brain, the body can experience terrible physical effects from the withdrawal of some kinds of drugs. The addict may experience extreme physical pain in his joints and muscle tissue from the lack of illicit substances in their system. As much as they may want to stop using drugs, they may find themselves unable to stop using on their own simply to relieve the withdrawal symptoms “one last time.”

Is there a cure for drug addiction?
Unfortunately, because drug addiction is a chronic disease much like diabetes, there is no cure. It is possible, however, to manage the symptoms through treatment so that the effects of the disease are not permitted to control one’s life on a daily basis. This process takes time. Some recovering addicts report that after a while, the cravings lessen and they don’t notice them anymore. Others say that they continue to fight cravings on a daily basis even years after they stopped using drugs. Each individual is different and each recovery process is unique. There is hope for recovery from drug addiction, and with proper support in place, the situation can improve.

Continued Familial Support

Once your family member has completed the treatment program for drug and alcohol addiction, they will need continued support to remain successful. One important aspect to remember, especially in the early days of recovery, is that relapse is a part of the disease. Not every recovering addict will relapse, but many will. This does not mean that the treatment program was unsuccessful.

It does mean that you and your family will need to pick up and move on from the relapse. Keeping an encouraging state of mind and understanding that a relapse does not mean failure will help to keep spirits high.

Be sure to help your recovering addict stay away from harmful influences by keeping drugs and alcohol out of the home as much as possible — including prescription medications that have been legally obtained for other members of the family. Should these medications be required, keep them locked in a safe, away from the recovering addict who may be tempted to use them.

Remember to love one another. Remember that, no matter how bad things may have become, you each have a bright future full of possibilities ahead of you.

December 1, 2015


4 responses to “Support Guide For Family Members Of Addicts”

  1. Such important and much needed info for families in need; thank you so much!

  2. Paul says:

    I took the time to read this lengthy article. Most of it is very true and accurate, just as mine was. I got tired of being alone. I felt like the lonelyest guy on the planet. Felt so sorry for me and my predicitiment. I by using put myself thru four accidents. Was only about 130 pounds soak and wet and on crutches and could barely walk. I lived in my dirty clothes, and would walk from one side of town to the other side each and every day. I started at 5:00pm and ended up walking back home accross town to home around 5:00am. I whent down deeper and hard fast. Seemed like all the good stuff in my left. I was very empty on the inside of me. Felt like a cannon ball whent right thru me. I was dying one day at a time and just surviving for me to use again. I lied and lied and lied. Got so caught up into my own cons that I could not distingush the true from the false anymore. I hit bottom and cused out God and tried to blaime him for all that I really had done to myself. I thought that I heard something about going to meetings. One tear ran down the side of my face. I was mad and stompped down the street about five or six blocks or so and then slowly started to think that maybe those people may know something that may be helpful to me.

    I just want it all to end. I wanted to die. I wanted others to care for me. It was scary for me to ask for help yet I did it. My vocie cracking and all. I did not smell well, I stopped bathing too. I had to go into a detox unit first for five days. On my way home, I used. I still whent to the treatment center. When Christmas showed up I left and whent home. Tried to kill me again. Whent back and had to do another 28 days. Thru this treatment I learned about attending meetings and then about a me getting a sponsor to help me along the recovery path. I have been thru a lot of sponsors now. Am clean and sober today as of June 4th, 1980. My first year, was very hard I was in and out and in and out, yet, I kept on comming back. This last June was my 35th anniversary, all I did was to do my part, and to listen and let others help me. I could not think at all. Now I can think. Just wanted to share a little bit of my story . Oh a lot of stuff on the inside of me was stuffed deep down , and a lot of it has healed up. And today I can be just me. God Bless and take care Paul.

    • Jonnie Gault says:

      Awesome account of getting clean. Congratulations! As the mother of an addict, I formed my life around my daughter with some space for myself to stay sane and functioning. Her first inpatient treatment came at age 13, when she became suicidal and tested positive for drugs. There is a very fine line between disciplining and enabling your child when you are the parent of an addict.

      When I heard my story in a 12 step meeting years later, and far more desperate, I was able to get past the fear and shame enough to talk it over with someone. It made a huge difference for me, and I felt hope for the first time. That hope included whether my daughter stopped using or not. As I let go of guilt, and the constant need to “fix” everything, I was able to continue with a daily reprieve. She experienced her consequences. She asked to go into treatment for the first time in eight years. It was so different for her than the other 5 times when she was forced. She spent her 21st birthday in treatment, and now at age 33, she has never had a legal drink or ingested a substance since. That is her recovery. My recovery includes going to meetings 1-3 times a week, being a trusted servant, working steps with a sponsor, and being a sponsor. Her treatment center did a wonderful aftercare. She has hope, faith, love, goals, and a wonderful life.

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