Family Member with Addiction

The 3 Most Effective Ways to Help a Family Member with Addiction

If you’ve ever tried to help a family member who is experiencing addiction, then you are familiar with the challenges that this process brings. Not only can it be physically and emotionally exhausting, but also it can be financially draining. The only way to be truly free is to seek treatment, work through underlying issues, and develop healthier ways to cope. 

It’s important to know that you cannot do the work for your loved one. It is up to them to work on their recovery and make the necessary changes to remain sober. But, you can support them in other ways. Here are three effective ways to help a family member through addiction. 

1. Set Boundaries and Avoid Enabling 

It’s normal to want to give things to the people you care about. But it’s important not to do this when you have a loved one experiencing addiction. For instance, if you’re giving the person a safe place to live rent-free and money for groceries, you are fueling their substance use. Most people don’t do this intentionally. Rather, they think that they are helping their loved one.

The problem is that people who use substances often won’t change unless they are given a reason to do so. If you keep giving your loved one the resources they need to live, they won’t be uncomfortable enough to want change. In their eyes, they can continue to use substances and live their life free of consequences. It’s often not until people with addiction exhaust all of their resources that they’re willing to accept the help they’re being offered. 

Setting boundaries and letting go of enabling behaviors is one of the best ways to support your loved one’s recovery. They probably won’t like it at first, and they may even accuse you of not caring about them. It’s important to remember that they are trying to manipulate you because they don’t want to be uncomfortable. Let your loved one know that when they are ready to seek help, you will be there for them every step of the way. But for now, you must protect yourself. 

So what are some of the healthy boundaries you can set? Examples include: 

  • Not giving the person money for rent, groceries, bills, etc. 
  • Not allowing drugs or alcohol in the home 
  • Not bailing the person out of jail if they’re arrested 
  • No invitations to family outings if they’re under the influence 
  • No longer making excuses when the person misses work, important dates, etc. 
  • Setting a curfew

2. Use Positive Reinforcement 

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in addiction recovery. By praising and rewarding a loved one’s progress, you encourage the behavior to continue. This type of support can make a big difference for your loved one, especially when faced with the harder days of recovery. Also keep in mind that your family member is trying to learn new ways of thinking, so encouraging them to think positively is helpful. Otherwise, they may focus on the negatives of recovery and forget all of the progress they’ve made. 

Here are some of the ways that you can use positive reinforcement to support different milestones in your loved one’s journey, such as being sober for one month, three months, and 12 months:

  • Take them out for dinner 
  • Go on a small trip
  • Volunteer with them 
  • See a movie together 
  • Spend the day at an amusement park 
  • Pay for a subscription service, such as a gym membership or a Netflix account 
  • Sign up for a class with them, such as cooking, pilates, or an art workshop 

3. Seek Support for Yourself 

We know a lot more about addiction than we used to, and this includes recognizing the toll that this condition takes on the whole family. Make sure that you take care of yourself. You can’t help your loved one if you don’t address your needs first. This is not being selfish—your main priority is to protect yourself and you can’t do this if you’re trying to clean up your loved one’s messes. 

Look into groups in your area that are created for the friends and family of people with substance use disorders, such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Families Anonymous. These groups are a great way to meet other people who are going through similar experiences as you. They can relate to your struggles, you can relate to theirs and you can talk about what’s bothering you. There’s also a lot to learn from these groups, as you can see what has helped other families move through the recovery process. 

Other ways to support yourself are by: 

  • Maintaining a structured routine with time for leisure and relaxation 
  • Spending time with supportive family and friends 
  • Eating a balanced diet 
  • Exercising 30 minutes a day 
  • Getting enough rest each day (7-9 hours) 
  • Talking to a therapist who specializes in addiction 
  • Enjoying your favorite hobbies 

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment in Agoura Hills, CA

Knowing that a family member or loved one is struggling with addiction can be a scary experience—and this is not something that we are taught how to handle. But rest assured that there is help out there for you and your loved one.

Awakenings Treatment Center supports individuals and their families on the path to recovery. Between behavioral therapies, individual counseling, peer-led support groups, alternative therapies, and encouragement of healthy activities, we provide a comprehensive approach to recovery. To learn more about our convenient outpatient programs, contact our admissions team today.