For Friends and Families

It is understandable that family members and friends of people with substance use issues have worries and fears about their loved one’s treatment. Realizing that a loved one can’t stop using drugs or alcohol can be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever have to do. You may feel hopeless in that there’s nothing you can do, but there is hope.

As family members, you are navigating a reality that can be hard to understand and difficult to witness. You are not alone in this experience. Please stay connected so that you and your loved one can continue to receive support and encouragement. This will help your loved one stay motivated as they work on changing unhealthy behaviors that ruled their lives before the decision to enter rehabilitation.

friends and family

How to Get My Loved One to See They Need Treatment For Their Addiction?

While the idea that ‘for someone to find recovery in treatment, they need to enter on their own free will,’ is historically new, it is true in most cases. In fact, most states in the U.S. do not allow family members to force a loved one into treatment. However, withholding your feelings and enabling their behavior is NOT an option. Instead, there are ways to express the negative impacts of your loved one’s addiction that may help them understand the need for treatment and recovery.

It is important to remember that you can never force someone to recover. Even if you share your feelings and explain how destructive a loved one’s addiction has become, they can still refuse treatment. With that being said, if everyone silently waited for their loved one to be “ready” for treatment, there would be far fewer people thriving in recovery.

Do For Them What They Cannot Do For Themselves

Getting a loved one into treatment can be a difficult task, especially when they are not willing to admit they have a problem. Even if your loved one won’t face their addiction on their own, you can speak your truth and help them see how it is harming every aspect of their life.

In most cases, friends and family try to break through their loved one’s impaired mindset long enough to get them into treatment. In doing so, family and friends hope that their loved one will gain a sense of clarity once they enter treatment. If nothing else, people pray that their loved ones will see the destructive, dead-end path that they were on. With a new outlook on life, the person struggling with addiction may develop the will to change and stay on the path to recovery.

How to Help a Loved One Who Struggles With Addiction

Getting a loved one into a drug or alcohol treatment program can be a difficult, pain-staking process. Although it can be trying and even painful at times, our loved ones are worth it. Even if we’re unsuccessful on the first try, we must never give up. You never know when you may get through to them and save their life.

Ways you can help and support your loved one:

  • Get help for yourself first
  • Set boundaries and keep them
  • Remind them that you love them
  • Practice patience and empathy
  • Let them know you’re here for them
  • Accept that recovery doesn’t happen overnight
  • Prepare for a change in both your life and theirs
  • Educate yourself on addiction and recovery
  • Maintain a calm, sober environment
  • Never enable substance abuse, regardless of the intention

In order to help a loved one with an addiction, you must first care for yourself. It may seem obvious that it’s difficult to help someone when you also need help, but many people lose sight of this truth. This is especially true for family members who are lost in the thick of a relative’s substance abuse.

If you are still suffering from the impacts of your loved one’s addiction, it’s unlikely that you will be in the right state of mind to successfully provide help. Similarly, if you are busy cleaning up a loved one’s messes resulting from substance abuse, you’re still enabling them. In order to truly help someone recover from addiction, you must refrain from making excuses. Enabling only feeds their addiction when you enable your loved one. It’s important they know you’re serious and if they break or push the boundaries you’ve set, there will be consequences.

How To Support a Loved One Without Enabling Their Addiction

Just because you won’t support their addiction anymore doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on your loved one. If they decide to seek treatment, friends and families can provide healthy forms of support and encouragement. During treatment, many drug and alcohol treatment centers incorporate families and friends within a guest’s treatment plan through in-person and online family therapy sessions.

Often, rehab facilities provide a set of guidelines and suggestions on how to effectively offer support to a loved one during and after treatment for families and friends. For example, rehab centers that incorporate 12-step principles into their treatment programs may suggest that you encourage your loved one’s continued participation in local 12-step meetings following treatment. Programs such as AA and NA are held in person and online to provide those in recovery with a source of support, understanding, and accountability.

Helping Your Loved One Prevent a Relapse

Now that your loved one is no longer spending their time seeking out drugs or alcohol, using, nursing hangovers, and scraping money together, you may hear them complain that time seems to go slower than before, and not in a good way. To help combat symptoms of boredom, depression, and anxiety that accompany anhedonia, you can help your loved one in finding activities that evoke a sense of passion within them. In general, the best thing for friends and families to do is practice patience while offering potential activities that can help them past the time. 

Friends and families can help a loved one choose an activity by drawing from past passions. For instance, say your loved one loved to draw as a child — you can encourage their participation in art therapy. The same goes for singing in music therapy or writing in journal therapy. While nothing may appeal to them at first, the symptoms of anhedonia will pass with time. As time passes, withdrawal symptoms will fade and in the meantime, your loved one can learn new creative ways to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

Keep in mind, they may not be in the physical or emotional condition to engage in anything very demanding. You can encourage them to start with something simple that can hold their attention while making only minimal emotional demands on their minds. After finding other ways to spend their time, they can begin to replace the act of drug abuse with healthier, constructive hobbies and habits.

Advice For Friends and Families Healing From a Loved One's Addiction

Many friends and families feel like it’s impossible to recover from the pain of a loved one’s addiction. After years of emotional turmoil and hypervigilance, it can be difficult to accept that change is possible for both yourself and your loved one.

There are wonderful resources for friends and families of people with substance abuse issues providing guidance on addiction treatment and support services. For instance, friends and families can provide family interviews during the evaluation process. Friends and families can also participate in family psychoeducation courses, family therapy, and support groups. If you are struggling to hold on to hope or finding it difficult to forgive your loved one, know healing and growth are possible. In fact, you can heal alongside other parents, siblings, partners, and friends who have loved one’s that struggle with addiction. 

How friends and families can heal from a loved one’s addiction:

  • Accept that your loved one’s addiction is not your fault
  • Respect your limits when helping your loved one
  • Give yourself the time and space away from your loved one if they are under the influence
  • Avoid unnecessary stress by setting clear, healthy boundaries with your loved one
  • Seek out support, comfort, and advice from people who share similar experiences
  • Conduct research on addiction, treatment, and recovery 

Living with someone in active addiction can be draining, so be sure to take care of yourself too. Remember, if you’re working harder than they are, something is wrong. More importantly, know that there is nothing wrong with friends and families seeking out professional help and support groups for help.

While your emotional presence and participation can improve success in the recovery journey, remember feelings of frustration or sadness are normal. Once you begin to recover from a loved one’s addiction, your loved one will be able to see your positivity and optimism. Knowing that their friends and families are able to heal and forgive them can be one of the most encouraging motivators in recovery.

Looking for more family resources? Check out our Family Resources page!

Help For Friends and Families​

If you are seeking treatment for your loved one’s drug or alcohol use disorder, we are available to help. Royal Life Centers offers a full continuum of care starting with detox and inpatient services. Following residential treatment, your loved one can continue their care in partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient, and sober living programs. 

If you need any help getting your loved one into treatment, please reach out to our 24/7 admissions department. Our team makes themselves available around the clock so that we can always be there for you. For guidance and support, you can call us at 877-RECOVERY.

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