support a loved one in addiction recovery

How to Support a Loved One in Addiction Recovery | Family Involvement

by Pat Fontana

You are understandably worried about your loved one’s health and well-being. When your family member has a substance use disorder, you may be even more concerned about how to help them. Family involvement is important as is an understanding of how to support a loved one in addiction recovery.

Expect Challenges

When your loved one is struggling, it is natural for you to be very concerned and to want to help as much as possible. However, understand that there is a fine line between being helpful and enabling your loved one. When you enable someone, you may believe that you are protecting them but you may actually end up supporting their negative behavior.

It can be difficult to help a person you care about who has an addiction. Your family member may not agree that they have a problem or may not want to change what they are doing. They may also be engaging in addiction as a way to avoid dealing with another problem in their life.

There is no easy or quick way to help a person with an addiction. Overcoming addiction requires great willpower and determination. If your loved one does not want to change their behavior, trying to persuade them to get help is unlikely to work. What you can do is take steps to help your loved one make changes in the long term. It’s also important that you get the support you need to cope with a loved one who has an addiction.

Family involvement in the addiction recovery process for your loved one means that you should focus on helping, not on threatening, criticizing, or expecting immediate change. Instead, respect your loved one’s privacy, be honest with them, and focus on building trust.

Trust is Key

When you talk to your loved one about their addiction, keep in mind some key points around building and maintaining your trust level.

  • Different perspectives. While you may only want to help your loved one, they might think you are trying to control them. These feelings can lead a person with addiction to engage in their addiction even more.
  • Stress can make things worse. Your loved one likely uses their addictive behavior (at least partly) as a way to control stress. If the atmosphere between the two of you is stressful, they will want to do the addictive behavior more, not less.
  • Trust goes both ways. Building trust is a two-way process. Trust is not established when you continue to put up with unwanted behavior.
  • Understand the role of consequences. People with addiction rarely change until the addictive behavior begins to have consequences. While you might want to protect your loved one, resist the urge to try to protect someone with addiction from the consequences of their own actions.

The exception to allowing for consequences is if your loved one is doing something that could be harmful to themselves or others—for example, drinking and driving.

Family Involvement is Complex

When you want to support a loved one in addiction recovery, your family will play a complex role. You can be a source of help to the treatment process, but you also must manage the consequences of your family member’s addictive behavior. Individual family members will be concerned about your loved one’s substance abuse, but you also have your own goals and issues.

Your family members may have a stronger desire to move toward overall improved functioning in the family system, which will help compel your loved one to seek and/or remain in treatment, even through periods of ambivalence about achieving a sober lifestyle. However, your loved one must also clarify boundaries between dysfunctional family members, including possibly detaching from family members who are actively using, which can actually alleviate stress on your loved one and create emotional space to focus on their addiction recovery.

Family Involved Therapy

Family‐involved therapy attempts to educate families about the relationship patterns that typically contribute to the formation and continuation of substance abuse. A family educational approach includes psychoeducation to teach the family about substance abuse, related behaviors, and the behavioral, medical, and psychological consequences of use.

Take Care of Yourself

One of the most important ways to support a loved one in addiction recovery is to understand what they are going through in their addiction. Educate yourself about addiction and alcoholism, particularly as it relates to the family as a whole. The more you know about the dynamics of a family affected by addiction, the more you will be able to offer your family member understanding, encouragement, and support.

You can also get help for yourself by participating in mutual support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Many family members of people with substance use disorders have found that joining an Al-Anon Family Group can be a positive, life-changing experience.

You and Your Loved One Can Find Help at South Miami Recovery

Addiction affects the entire family. At South Miami Recovery, we provide help for you and your loved one for a successful recovery. Our family therapy approach decreases your loved one’s chance of relapse and can help promote their long-term recovery. We offer HIPAA-compliant telehealth services during COVID-19 so you and your loved one can get the help you need now. To learn more, contact us today. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.