Everyone in a family is impacted in some way if one family member has drug/alcohol problems. No matter how close or distant family relationships are, chemical dependency can disrupt a family’s balance and cause dysfunction.  The entire family can assist with the recovery process and help stabilize the families function.

Families tend to worry, stress, fear, distrust, become angry and disappointed about their loved one’s chemical dependency problems. Some may try to cover-up the chaos, conflict, accidents, and distress caused by the addiction.

Oftentimes, family members unintentionally make it easier for the addict to use drugs/alcohol. This behavior is called enabling (ex., help which is harmful). Some examples of enabling behaviors:

  • Rescuing the addict from natural consequences of their addiction (ex., hiring attorneys, bailing them out of jail, paying drug dealers)
  • Denial (He/She doesn’t have a problem)
  • Minimizing (it’s only a little beer, cocaine, heroin etc.,)
  • Taking over their responsibilities (paying cell phone bills, car notes, rent etc.,)
  • Using drugs/alcohol with the addict

These behaviors prevent the addict from looking at their problem and it allows them to continue to use drugs/alcohol.

As loved ones, it’s natural to want to help. One of the best things family members can do is to work on themselves. Below you will find some things family members can do that will help:

  • Gather resources on drug treatment facilities and intervention specialists to assist with getting your addicted family member help.
  •  Become your own expert on addiction. Learn as much as you can about chemical dependency, substance abuse and the disease of addiction. 
  •  Seek help from a professional that specializes in chemical dependency issues.
  • Attend self-help/support meetings such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
  •  Let go of and stop enabling behaviors/actions.
  • Practice self-care by eating healthy, getting adequate rest, and exercising.
  •  Recognize that the addiction did not happen overnight therefore it will not change overnight either. Be patient with the process.

Submitted by Pamela K. Williams, MS, LCPC