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Tips to Help Family Members of Addicts Cope



In 2016 the numbers of Americans struggling with drug addiction was roughly 7,400,000 people over the age of 11 according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMAHA). The role that families play in the process of drug or alcohol addiction can be crucial in the recovery success of an addict. Addiction is commonly seen as a family disease with all members of the addicts support system struggling to cope in their own way. It can be difficult for loved ones of an addict to support that person while also maintaining a healthy balance within the relationship and taking care of their own needs simultaneously.


When determining how to deal with an addict understanding the nature of their addiction is crucial. Addiction affects every member of the addicts support circle in various ways. While taking steps to help get the addict the support and treatment necessary, family members often neglect their own health and mental well being.


Here are 10 tips to help guide families through the process of supporting their loved one while supporting themselves through the recovery process at the same time:


1. Learn as much as possible about your loved ones disease

Addiction is a disease that is constantly being studied and new information is being discovered regularly. Learning the basics about the causes and behaviors of addicts is essential in coming to terms with your loved ones addiction. As the family member of an addict it is normal to blame yourself or blame the addict for being weak, stubborn or selfish. Learning more about the science behind addiction, such as changes in brain chemistry, can help alleviate some of this misplaced blame.

Staying on top of the newest breakthroughs in treatment and the science of addiction can be essential in providing families with hope for the future.


2. Connect with a supportive group of understanding peers

With addiction becoming so highly prevalent in America today, chances are you already know someone who is struggling with addiction within their family. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to reach out to people in your life who can understand what you are going through. Once again, addiction is a disease and as the family of an addict you have nothing to be ashamed of. Connecting with peers who are going through similar situations can help to relieve the isolation that you may be feeling.

Organized support groups such as Al-anon are also a great option for connecting with people who will be able to sympathize with what you are going through. Support groups like that are a safe and nonjudgmental space where you can share your personal fears or difficulties and also listen and learn from other people in similar situations.

Studies show that people who go to meetings like this to help deal with an addicted family member or loved one experience a better quality of life, have less relationship problems with the addicted person, have lower stress levels and improved quality of health.


3. Go to family therapy sessions

Dealing with an addicted family member can take a major toll on every relationship within the family. Spouses, siblings, children and parents of addicts usually absorb many of the consequences of the addiction which cause many families to become distant. Often times family members of addicts do not know how to talk to each other about their loved ones addiction due to fear, blame or anger. This inability to discuss such a major issue in the household can be detrimental to the family dynamic.

A family therapy program can be essential in helping families of addicts connect and learn to support one another as well as the addict.


4. Make time together as a family

Another way to help keep your family connected while dealing with the addiction is to plan time to spend together as a family. One of the simplest ways to do this is to have dinner together and use that time to reconnect. While dealing with the addict in the household can take up a lot of time, spending time with the other members of the family is just as important. Just a few meals together as a family a week, a night out at the bowling alley or going on a walk together can help to tighten the bonds within the family.


5. Take the time for self care

When dealing with an addict within the family it is often easy to begin to neglect your own personal needs. You won't be able to take care of anyone else if you aren't taking care of yourself first.

  • Take time to do the things you love (playing an instrument, going for a run, cooking, painting, volunteering, spending time with friends)

  • Make sure you're eating right and getting enough sleep

  • Get regular exercise

  • Schedule private therapy sessions

  • Focus on maintaining healthy relationships with friends, coworkers and other family members

If you are looking for more support or information on how to deal with the addiction of a loved one check out some of these resources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

Al-Anon Family Groups




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