10 Valuable Tips for Helping a Friend or Family Member Struggling with Addiction


Coping with addiction is hard on all those involved. Substance use disorders wreak havoc on families, friends, and the individual dealing with addiction. If you are a loved one of someone facing addiction, here are 10 ways you can help:

1. Learn About Substance Use Disorders

It’s difficult to understand what your loved one is experiencing if you don’t understand how addiction works. Start educating yourself by reading as much as you can about how substance use disorders happen, what your loved one is experiencing, and what family and friends can do to help.

As you learn more about addiction, you’ll understand that substance use disorders are a disease, not a choice. This is a significant distinction that you should keep in mind when interacting with your loved one.

2. Connect with Peers

Recovery isn’t something that happens overnight. Helping a loved one cope with a substance use disorder is a process. This process can be particularly stressful and taxing. Don’t let this situation overwhelm you. Find a support system that you can reach out to whenever you need to.

When searching for a support group, find other people that understand what you’re experiencing. There are several established groups that are designed for family members that have been touched by addiction.

3. Attend Family Therapy Sessions

While you may encourage your loved one to seek therapy and get treatment, you should also realize that attending therapy as a family is beneficial as well. As substance use changes the individual, it also changes the family dynamic. Instead of playing the blame game or ignoring the issues at hand, make an effort to intentionally deal with the situation as best you can.

Choosing to attend family therapy may be the catalyst the rest of your family needs. While you might be the only person advocating to attend therapy at first, the rest of the family will likely join you when they realize how transformative therapy can be.

4. Eat Meals as a Family

The simple act of eating together as a family can strengthen the dynamics between all the family members. Regardless of what’s happening with each person, sitting down to dinner together allows everyone to feel as though they are still part of the family unit. These meals act as another way to reconnect the family amidst all the anxieties that they are experiencing.

5. Manage Your Expectations

There’s no denying the sense of optimism that family and friends feel when their loved one chooses to get help for their addiction. While there’s nothing wrong with being hopeful, it is important for each person to manage their expectations. Recovery takes time and is a very intensive process.

You shouldn’t expect to see drastic changes overnight. The kind of transformation recovery brings is long and hard-earned. Be patient, manage your expectations, and don’t lose hope.

6. Stay Joyful

When dealing with substance use disorders, it can be easy to lose sight of your own joy. Spending your days worrying and waiting will take a toll on your emotional and mental wellness. Make it a point to prioritize your joy by doing things you love.

Schedule that trip you’ve been longing to take or start the hobby you’ve always wanted to learn. Whatever it is you choose to do, taking time to do the things you love is incredibly important at a time like this.

7. Exercise Regularly

Dealing with family issues can seem like a marathon of endless anxiety and sadness. As you wait for your loved one to get better, you may go days without seeing any progress. Having to wake up day after day to the same family strife can make things increasingly difficult.

Try to combat some of these stressful feelings by exercising regularly. While it may seem like one has nothing to do with the other, fitting in regular fitness routines will help to reduce whatever stress you’re feeling. Moreover, consistent exercise will allow you to keep your body and health in shape, which will help you stay positive throughout this period.

8. Keep a Consistent Sleep-Wake Cycle

Whether your thoughts are keeping you awake at night or you find yourself spending your nights helping your loved one through their addiction, getting a good night’s sleep can be quite difficult for family members that are dealing with substance use.

If you consistently fail to get enough sleep, you’ll find that you are even more exhausted and fraught with anxiety. While you can’t control everything that happens, do your best to stick to a sleep-wake cycle. This will ensure you have the energy and mental stamina to deal with everything life throws at you.

9. Seek Therapy Alone

Just as family therapy is important when dealing with a loved one with a substance use disorder, it is equally as important to seek therapy on your own. Meeting with a personal counselor will help you understand and overcome everything that you are going through on your own. This will help to ease some of the stress you feel, as well as teach you methods to better relate to the rest of your family.

In private therapy sessions, you’ll learn more about yourself and how to handle the stress and anger caused by your family situation. In addition to dealing with your feelings relating to your family, your therapist will also help you focus on your goals and personal life outside of your family.

10. Become an Advocate

Just as you should take the time to educate yourself, it is important you share what you’ve learned with others. Most people haven’t been educated on what addiction is and how to treat it. Use the knowledge you’ve gained from your own experiences to educate others about substance use disorders.

There is no one way to treat addiction. Use these 10 tips to guide you as you help your loved one through this difficult time.


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