Strategies for Those Coping With a Family Member's Addiction

If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, especially if they are very close to you, it can be devastating. You may feel guilt, sadness, and fear for the future. Dealing with a family member’s addiction can be incredibly challenging and emotionally taxing, and recovery can take months or years. You will have to learn how to protect yourself, find support, and stay healthy in order to help your family member. Here are some steps you can take to heal and cope with the situation:

Educate Yourself

Before you take any other steps, it’s important to educate yourself. Take the time to learn about addiction as a disease, its causes, effects, and available treatments. Understanding the nature of addiction can help you approach the situation with more empathy and realistic expectations. It can also help you learn how to deal with setbacks and family struggles and understand how the addition may affect you and other family members. If there are children involved, it’s essential to learn more about how a family member addiction affects kids and how to best help them. This can help you the children avoid life-long consequences from the trauma of having an addictive person in the family.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries can help you stay healthy and can help protect other family members, including children. It’s important to establish clear and healthy boundaries with the addicted family member as well as any family members who are enabling them. This might involve defining what behavior you are not willing to tolerate and communicating these boundaries in a calm and respectful manner. Once you verify that your boundaries are reasonable and appropriate, you will have to be firm with yourself and stick to them even when your family members criticize you or try to change your mind.

Seek Support

You don’t have to go through this alone. Make sure to seek support from friends, family members, and support groups for families of addicts. You can find support groups through religious centers, community organizations, medical and mental health facilities, and local addiction treatment centers. Connecting with others who have experienced similar situations can provide validation, advice, and a sense of community. If you don’t make a conscious effort to connect with others and find support from those who have been in your shoes, you may risk your own mental health and your relationship with your addicted family member.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is crucial during this time, so make sure that you pay special attention to your own self-care. Engage in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and a sense of normalcy. This could include exercise, hobbies, meditation, spending time with loved ones, or seeking therapy. In addition, take more serious steps to maintain your mental health like eliminating bad habits, getting enough sleep, eating well, and keeping a healthy margin in your schedule.

Consider Professional Help

Many family members of addicted people benefit from professional help. Professional sessions such as therapy or counseling can provide a safe space to express your feelings, gain coping strategies, and develop effective communication skills for dealing with your addicted family member. Depending on the support system you have available, this may be the best or only way to get support for your feelings and the stress you are going through.

Avoid Enabling

Enabling is incredibly detrimental to you, your addicted loved one, and your relationship. While wanting to help is natural, avoid enabling the addictive behavior. Enabling can include providing financial support that is being used for substances, covering up for their actions, or preventing them from facing the consequences. Make sure that your boundaries are safe and reasonable, and that they are protecting both you and your loved one from any actions that could be enabling.

Encourage Treatment

Treatment is important for the recovery and health of your loved one. If your family member is willing to seek treatment, support them in finding appropriate options. This could involve outpatient or inpatient rehab programs, counseling, therapy, or support groups. You can also help in other ways such as providing transportation to visits and court dates. However, remember that your family member needs to be committed to recovery for it to be effective, and make sure that your actions are truly helping them and not enabling them.

Practice Patience

Make sure that you are patient with yourself, your addicted family member, and other loved ones as you all get through this time. If your family member is working on recovery, remember that it is a gradual process with ups and downs. Be patient and understand that setbacks are a normal part of the journey. Celebrate small victories and offer encouragement. If your loved one is not trying to get better, be patient with yourself and other family members as you all learn to set healthy boundaries, cope with the situation, and find good support systems. Work together to get stronger.

Communicate Openly

Communication is the lifeblood of relationships. Make sure that you maintain open and honest communication with your addicted family member. Express your concerns, love, and desire for them to seek help, but do so without judgment or criticism. Also, maintain communication with other family members so you can help and support each other.

Accept What You Can’t Control

Acceptance is one of the important stages of grieving. When you have an addicted family member, it’s essential to recognize that you can’t control the actions or choices of other people. You can offer support and resources, but ultimately, their recovery is their responsibility. This is especially hard for parents of adult children to accept, as they often feel a heavy weight of blame for what has happened to their child.

Consider Your Safety

Finally, pay attention to your safety as well as the safety of any children involved. If the addicted family member’s behavior becomes dangerous or abusive, prioritize your safety and the safety of others. In some cases, this might involve seeking help from law enforcement or other appropriate authorities. Never put yourself or your children at risk in order to help an addicted family member.


Healing from a family member’s addiction is a long process that takes time, understanding, and support. It’s essential to seek help for yourself, set boundaries, and focus on your own well-being. You cannot help your loved one if you are not taking good care of yourself. Lastly, remember that you cannot force someone to change but you can influence your own response to the situation and find ways to cope and heal.