How to Help a Family Member with Addiction

Addiction not only affects the struggling person, but also impacts the whole family. Learn how to help a family member with addiction effectively. 

Table of Contents

What is Addiction in the Family?

Addiction in the family occurs when a family member struggles with a substance use disorder (SUD). SUD is characterized by continuous use of drugs or alcohol despite adverse consequences happening in someone’s life. Many will wonder how to help a family member with addiction when this happens. 

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How Does Addiction Develop?

The first part of learning how to help someone you care about who is struggling with addiction is learning how addiction develops. Common things that can cause someone to start abusing addictive substances are:
  • Experimenting with drugs or alcohol
  • Peer pressure
  • Being in an environment with lots of drug or alcohol use
  • Self-medicating due to stress or mental health issues
  • Misusing prescription drugs
  • Trying to cope with past trauma

All these aspects can affect someone’s life significantly and be the beginning stages of substance use disorders. When someone starts using addictive drugs regularly, they may develop a physical or psychological dependence on them. A dependence will make someone feel like they can’t function normally without using drugs. This leads to binge use of substances and other negative behavioral patterns that cause addiction.1

What are Some of the Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction?

It isn’t always easy to spot addiction. Many will try to cover it up and hide it from family members. However, there are signs you can look for to determine if someone is struggling. Common signs of addiction include: 
  • Unwanted weight loss or gain
  • Facial flushing
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Unjustified outbursts of anger
  • Confusion
  • Unexplained memory loss
  • Neglect of favorite school activities

How Does Addiction Affect the Family?

When learning how to help a family member with addiction, it’s also important to understand that it can affect everyone in the family. Addiction can affect the family in many ways, such as leading to:
  • Poor communication
  • Loss of emotional or physical intimacy
  • Increased conflict
  • Home not being physically safe
  • Marital conflict
  • Isolation between family members
  • Increased stress or mental health issues throughout the family
  • Inconsistent parenting

All these aspects can take a toll when dealing with addiction in the family. That’s why treatment programs must consider how addiction affects family members. The solution is more than just learning how to help a family member with addiction but learning how to help the entire family that is affected by their loved one’s struggles. 

How Does Addiction Affect Children?

Addiction can be tough on children. Younger children may not understand what their parent or older family member is going through. Older children with a parent struggling with addiction can start to feel a disconnect and may begin to struggle mentally or emotionally. Some of the common ways addiction affect children are:2
  • Being neglected or feeling like their needs are neglected
  • Possible abuse
  • Educational needs not being met
  • Starting to struggle at school
  • Teens may start to follow the model of the parent
  • Mental health issues or feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling isolated or misunderstood
  • Having trouble finding their way in life
Often, children can feel very neglected when their parent or an older adult in the family is dealing with addiction. When learning how to help a family member with addiction, you must also pay attention to what the children in the family are going through. 

What Is the Role of Family in Addiction Recovery?

If you’re learning how to help a family member with addiction, you may wonder what role the family plays in recovery. Often, the family acts as a support network during recovery. Treatment programs that involve the family and educate family members about how to support their loved one provide a good base to help them through this difficult time. 

Establishing Family Support

Ways that families can provide adequate support through the recovery process are:3

  • Maintain positivity in the household, even if it feels difficult.
  • Avoid blaming anyone or making someone the scapegoat for the issue. 
  • It can be difficult, but you must set boundaries for how far you will go for your struggling family member. 
  • Take the time to learn about how addiction affects someone. 
  • Listen to your family members if they try to express themselves to you. 
  • Work as a team throughout the process. 
  • Attend and be an active participant in family therapy sessions. 
If you’re wondering how to help a family member with addiction, implementing all or many of these aspects into your family system will be helpful. 

Can I Help a Family Member Overcome Addiction?

Yes, you can help a family member that is struggling with addiction. Family therapy and learning about addiction are great ways to be an active participant in their recovery if you want to learn how to help a family member with addiction. 

However, it’s important to remember that you cannot single-handedly help a family member recover. They must act and put effort into their own recovery. Family members can be there throughout the process to provide love, care, and support, but should refrain from enabling or helping at the expense of their own wellbeing.

Why Honesty in Addiction Recovery is Critical

When helping someone with addiction, it’s important to remember that honesty is critical to their success. The person struggling and their loved ones must all be honest about how they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing. This keeps communication pathways open so you can find the best ways for everyone to feel good and be successful. 

How to Help a Family Member with Addiction

If you want to know how to help a family member with addiction, here are some steps you can take:

  • Learn as much as possible about addiction
  • Connect with understanding peers
  • Go to family therapy sessions
  • Prepare meals and eat them as a family
  • Manage expectations
  • Stay in touch with personal joy
  • Get regular exercise
  • Adhere to a formal sleep/wake schedule
  • Schedule private therapy sessions
  • Educate and advocate

Maintaining balance and healthy habits will ultimately be essential to everyone’s wellbeing. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat right, and be mindful of your mental well-being. You can’t help your family member if you don’t first help yourself. 

How to Help a Family Member with Addiction

Help is Available for Families With Addiction

If you have a family member struggling with addiction, help is available. Opportunities for healing will be detailed below.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy can be helpful for both the person in recovery and individual family members that are struggling. If you notice a family member or child going through mental or emotional distress, recommending that they talk to a therapist is a great step to ensure everyone’s well-being is maintained during this time. 

Family Counseling

Family counseling is one of the best resources when you want to know how to help a family member with addiction. A family counselor can get everyone involved with the recovery program and make sure everyone feels heard. This helps create a solid support system for everyone involved. 

Al-Anon Family Groups

Al-Anon is another great resource for family members impacted by addiction. Al-anon is a branch of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that has a similar concept of support group meetings. However, these meetings are for family members to discuss and share how a loved one’s addiction has impacted them. This provides a good outside resource for family members to feel supported. It can also give you another resource to get insights on how to help a family member with addiction.4

Get Help or Family Addiction Treatment at Profound Recovery

To learn more about how to help a family member with addiction, Profound Recovery is here for you. Profound Recovery is a treatment center for alcohol and drug abuse. We provide evidence-based treatment that fits the specific needs of the individual. 

This includes involving and educating family members who have been affected as well. If you need help, our staff can be here for you every step of the way. Contact us to learn how Profound Recovery can help you. 

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