Help a loved one with addiction

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

How to help a Loved One with Addiction

Table of Contents

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be frustrating, heartbreaking, and even devastating. Helping a loved one with addiction can be emotionally challenging and often leaves us frustrated with more questions than answer about how to best help an addicted loved one. We understand what you, as a loving and supportive family member are going through. You only want the best for your loved one. You want to see them succeed and celebrate their victories. 

That is why NuView Treatment Center has made a commitment, not only to support our clients but to support your whole family on this path. We believe that a healthy family dynamic is vital to recovery. Our program is designed to include, educate, and empower families so that you can provide a positive source of support for your recovering family member, allowing you all the opportunity to heal and grow together.

Someone on the path to recovery will go through several ups and downs along the way. It is so important for your own health that you know what to expect. At times, your loved one may feel unmotivated, demoralized, skeptical, depressed, overwhelmed, and hopeless.

Knowing what role you play in their recovery and how you can help will empower you and help serve as a source of strength, motivation, and hope for your loved one to draw from. But how to help someone with an addiction? We have listed some ways you can help your loved one with drug or alcohol addiction.

List of Ways You Can Help A Loved One with Addiction

  1. Talk to them about how you can help. They may not know the answer right away so be prepared to revisit this discussion down the road. Make it clear that you want to help, and wait for a time to continue when they are receptive. “Help” can mean many different things, from providing a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on to specific tasks, such as giving reminders to take medication or providing a ride to the doctor. Use this conversation to set clear guidelines and expectations around supporting their needs. Come to an agreement about your role and the types of things you both agree are reasonable. A key component of this being a successful conversation is trust. Trust that your loved one wants to recover and knows what they need from you to achieve their goals.
  2. Be available and follow through on what you say. Once the expectations have been laid out, you are as responsible for holding up your end of the deal as the person in recovery. Your commitment and dedication to supporting and encouraging them is crucial to their success. If you aren’t able to be available 24/7, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan or another contact person to work with. That will relieve some of the pressure for you if you aren’t able to respond immediately.
  3. Learn about the addiction recovery process. One of the best things you can do is be educated about the ups and downs your loved one might encounter on their path to recovery. Being educated will make it easier for you to understand and utilize sympathy or compassionately hold them accountable. As with most worthwhile efforts, you will be more effective if you are better informed. Seek out reputable mental health resources to learn more about the individual’s specific issues and ways to promote recovery.
  4. Give honest feedback without passing judgment. First, ask for permission to offer feedback, so they are more receptive when it is time. Once this approval is given, don’t be afraid to offer feedback on a regular basis. Stay positive by providing encouragement and abundant praise for progress toward a specific goal. Offer constructive and supportive comments and suggestions about things that aren’t going as well to help the person get back on track. Understand that recovery it a process that will have its ups and downs, stay the course and stay hopeful and positive.
  5. Your loved one is still a person, not just an addict. In the early stages of recovery, the person’s illness can be overwhelming, making it hard for them to remember all of their other unique personal strengths. As recovery progresses, it’s important to help them reclaim the talents, hobbies, interests, goals, and dreams they may have had to set aside due to their illness. Eventually, the illness should be seen as only one part of who they are, and not what defines them as a person.
  6. Take Care of yourself, too! You can’t be a fully effective caregiver if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. “Caregiver stress” is the well-documented effect of being overwhelmed by the long-term stress associated with caring for another person. Arrange for breaks from extended caregiving responsibilities so you can recharge your own batteries. Consider enlisting additional support, such as home health services or similar resources, if the demands exceed your capabilities.
  7. Reduce Family Friction and Create a Stress-Free environment. High levels of conflict in close family relationships can be unpleasant for everyone. For people with co-occurring disorders, stress within the family can also contribute to relapses of the mental health disorder, the substance use disorder, or both. Social support, on the other hand, can reduce stress and facilitate coping, which makes everyone feel good.

How to Offer Support to a Loved One Struggling with Addiction

  • developing good communication skills that minimize tension and maximize constructive support
  • being flexible and resourceful in the face of problems
  • letting one another know how much you care
  • spending positive time together that is rewarding for everyone
  1. Share the Responsibility. A good recovery plan includes multiple supports, so you shouldn’t be the only one helping the person. They may have a therapist and/or prescriber, a support group, and access to peer support services, which involves working with others also in recovery. Help the person stay connected with all of these vital members of their support team. It can often be beneficial to communicate with these other supporters, but only if you are explicitly permitted to do so by the person you are assisting.
  2. Don’t give up. Above all, family members play an invaluable role in helping their loved one keep hope alive. Change is possible. Every person with co-occurring disorders is capable of living a worthwhile, stimulating, and rewarding life. Family members can offer support by firmly believing in their loved one’s inherent capacity to get better and create the future life he or she wants. Such hope can be powerful medicine. It can fuel the person’s efforts and determination to take control of life and enjoy its rewards.

The Road to Recovery from Addiction is Full of Twists and Turns

The journey of recovery can be long, challenging, fraught with many setbacks, and often discouraging for both you and your loved one in recovery. It’s critical to not give up. With these tips, you can keep moving forward, together.  The road to recovery is a long-distance marathon, not a 100-meter sprint. Anytime you are feeling challenged, unmotivated, or hopeless, remember, you have the support you need from NuView Integrative Treatment Center.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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