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How to Help a Family Member if They're Struggling with Substance Abuse

Substance abuse, no matter what kind of form it takes, can be devastating for family members. It can drain finances, impact careers, and even damage relationships within the family. If your loved one is struggling with substance use, it’s important to remember that the recovery process is not just for them, it's for the whole family. You’ll need to make adjustments in your lives to help support them and help them overcome the habit. Let’s take a look at how to help a family member if they’re struggling with substance use.

Before we begin, it’s important to realize that if you have noticed a family member who is using substances struggling with finances, relationships, social gatherings, legal issues, self-esteem, or even self respect, you’re not overreacting. The earlier you step in, the better the outcome tends to be.

Recognize the Problem

The first step in helping your loved one is by recognizing the problem yourself. Do they show any potential signs of substance abuse? Things like behavioral changes, neglecting their responsibilities, and an obvious decline in physical health are all common signs of substance use. Looking further into the situation and asking if they’re able to hold down a job or keep up with rent payments will also help in determining its severity. Once the seriousness of the situation is recognized, you can immediately begin working with them to support them.

Take the time to regularly check in with your family member to see how they’re coping. Letting them know they can turn to you for anything will encourage open communication and make them more comfortable in talking to you.

Encourage Them to Get Professional Help

If you do recognize that a family member is misusing substances, regardless of what they are, It’s time to take action. It’s not always easy initiating the discussion. You might be worried that they won’t take it well and react negatively in front of other family members, move out of the house, stop going to work, or even begin using more excessively. However, it’s time to initiate an intervention, and the discussion may go better than you think. It might be that the individual hasn't noticed the change in themselves or that their substance abuse was causing any issues. Here are some tips on having a productive discussion to then begin taking action:

  • Never bring up the discussion when they are under the influence. When people are inebriated, they’re less able to understand any kind of logic and may become angry at you.
  • Make the time to talk in a safe and quiet space
  • Make sure they know and understand that you care for them, and that you’re not “nagging” or trying to be a buzzkill. Explain you’re generally worried about them and concerned about their health and the actions they’re taking.
  • If you’re able to, offer financial assistance in helping them attend rehab.
  • Help them search for a facility that they will feel comfortable in.
  • Don’t be under the influence yourself when you bring up the subject.
  • Be mindful that they may feel attacked and hurt by the discussion, but emphasize that you’re bringing it up from a place of love and care.
  • Avoid using derogatory or accusatory words like “addict,” “druggie,” or “drunk” when talking to them.
  • Remember there’s no quick fix, and their behaviors and actions may not change immediately.
  • Tell them which behaviors you’ve noticed and why you think they’re a problem.

If this is a new problem, you might find that your loved one can successfully cut back on their substance use and turn their life around. However this might not always be the case; in instances like these, attending rehab can help your family member recover more effectively.

Don't Be a Stumbling Block

Once you have had the discussion and they begin taking action (whether it’s trying to cut back or stop by themselves or attending rehab), it’s important to make changes in your life so you don’t end up being a stumbling block to them. For example, if you drink around them and they’ve previously struggled with alcohol, they may regress and fall straight back into misusing it again. Where possible, remove all temptations out of the house or lock them away somewhere.

It’s also important to avoid going places with them that could trigger their addiction. For example, if your family member has successfully quit drinking alcohol, heading to a bar for a night out is a bad idea. If you go out for a meal, refrain from ordering alcohol and help them further in their recovery journey.

Set Boundaries

Now that you have taken action and made changes to support them through this addiction, it’s important to set boundaries and rules. For example, if you’ve called into work for them before when they’ve passed out or been too hungover, make it clear that you will no longer be doing that. Or, perhaps you’ve paid a bill they usually pay to help prevent them from going into any debt - be firm, yet loving when you tell them that you’re not willing to do certain things like these any longer.

Demonstrate Unconditional Love

Battling addiction is one of the hardest things anyone will have to go through, and support and love from family members is an extremely powerful tool. Let the individual know how much you care about them. Even if they slip up or relapse temporarily, show them that no matter what, you love them. However it’s still important to be firm but gentle with your words. While your love never wavers, you also need to let them know that they need to keep fighting against their addiction. Never threaten them with leaving or abandonment. Show them that you want them to recover for their own health and well-being.

Why Treatment at Jackson House is Effective

Jackson House Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers are composed of fully licensed staff and teams of dedicated physicians to monitor your loved ones recovery, so you can be sure your family member will be getting the care and support they need to break free from addiction. Learn more about JHRC's addiction recovery treatment by contacting us today

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