Family and Addiction: 5 Helpful Tips to Help a Family Member with Addiction

Family and addiction go hand-in-hand. Studies of twins have found that genetic predisposition accounts for 50-60% of alcohol dependence, with similar numbers for misuse of other substances.

Addiction isn’t just passed down through family, it rips families apart. There’s a direct link between substance abuse and divorce or separation.

If you’re coping with addiction in your family, here are five tips to keep you going.

1. Rebuild Trust

Addiction thrives on dishonest behaviors like theft, lies, and blaming. The first step in helping your loved one is to rebuild trust.

Be trustworthy yourself and give your loved one opportunities to be trustworthy in return. Setting strict limits or making rigid plans can feel confining. If your relative feels like you’re being controlling, it can drive them deeper into an addictive lifestyle.

Don’t nag or lecture. It’s not your job to educate.

Stress is a trigger for self-medication. Addicts have a fragile sense of self, and failure to cope with stress can be paralyzing. Do whatever you can to keep your interactions stress-free.

2. Stop Enabling Behaviors

At the same time, you cannot build trust if you don’t allow your loved one to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. You have to stop enabling.

If the addict is your child, this is incredibly hard to do. It goes against instinct to let your child fail, especially in such a profound way. And it’s scary to let go and see what happens.

The truth is that being controlling doesn’t give you any more control than letting go.

If you’re financing your adult child’s life, you have to stop. Stop paying for rent, groceries, and hospital bills.

If you’re taking responsibility for your adult child’s life, you have to stop. Stop scheduling appointments, finding jobs, and getting them places.

If you’re covering for someone, you have to stop. Stop making excuses, backpedaling, or minimizing the problem.

3. Reserve Judgement

It’s hard to help someone when you’re harboring resentment. Families in recovery need to be judgment free.

It’s easy to take things personally when dealing with a drug addict, but addiction isn’t a personal offense. The disease of addiction is bound up in vulnerability and a lack of power.

Your loved one can’t just quit for his wife or kids or career. Addicts need professional help, and your only role is to help them get help.

4. Get Support

Coping with spouse addiction or your child’s addiction is confounding and draining. You have to make sure that you’re getting the support you need.

There’s specialized counseling for parents of drug addicts. There are support groups you can go to alone or with your loved one.

You’re dealing with an excess of stress, and you need help managing it. Make sure that you’re taking breaks when you need to. Don’t neglect your own mental and physical health.

5. Know What to Expect

Drug addiction is complex and recovery isn’t linear. Knowing what to expect will keep you in it for the long haul.

When someone agrees to treatment, the relief is palpable. But treatment is a vulnerable time. Withdrawal takes a physical toll, and the return of responsibility takes a mental toll.

Learn the signs of relapse and overdose. Get familiar with a list of drug reactions and side effects. There’s information online for your relative’s substance of choice, like these suboxone side effects.

More About Family and Addiction

The mix of family and addiction is complicated and destructive. There are steps you can take to preserve yourself and your relationships. Manage your expectations and relinquish control.

If you’re looking for ways to take care of yourself while dealing with addiction, check out our posts on wellness. There are tips for managing stress and gaining energy.