Drug addiction is a disease with effects that extend to others in the addict’s life. Typically, family members are most affected by addiction, but friends, neighbors, and co-workers can be affected too. Part four of this four-part series discusses why family members in particular need support.

It is normal for family members and other close loved ones of an addict to need their own help when the addict goes to drug rehab. Likewise, people close to addicts who refuse to seek help often need to learn how to better manage their relationship with the addict so as not to become victims of collateral damage from the addiction.

Seeking your own help when you love an addict is not frivolous or “extra,” but a smart decision that helps you learn coping skills that are both effective and loving to the addict. It is not easy loving someone with a drug addiction, and if you find yourself in this situation, it is important to know you are not alone.

Your Emotions During a Difficult Time

The range of emotions family members experience when an addict is spiraling out of control or chooses to enter drug rehab is broad. Sadness, anger, and grief are common when the addict refuses to get help, and when your loved one does choose to get treatment, those emotions may not go away completely.

The relief of a loved one choosing drug rehab is often peppered with other emotions, including doubt, fear, and a lot of time spent wondering how to help with a successful recovery process. Do not discount your emotions. They are valid. There are plenty of resources to help you manage your emotions and learn to cope in healthy ways.

Where Family Members of Addicts Can Get Support

Some people choose to enter individual counseling with a psychologist or psychiatrist, particularly if they experience symptoms of clinical depression or unremitting anxiety. This option may be too expensive in some communities, though there are clinics that offer therapy on a sliding fee scale.

Community groups specifically for loved ones of addicts include Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Co-Dependents Anonymous. These are free and usually available most days of the week. The purpose of these groups is to help you develop healthy and appropriate boundaries, recognize and curb “enabling” behavior, and have the fellowship of people who have been through or are going through a similar situation. A quick web search will turn up information about times and locations of meetings near you, and these groups are very welcoming to new members.

Your Own Wellness Is Essential

The analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask when cabin pressure in a plane drops too low before helping others is practically a cliché, but there is a good reason for that. The healthier you are, the better able you are to use effective coping techniques in your relationship with the addict you love.

Unfortunately, family members often feel depletion and despair over the fate of their loved one. That is why it is so important to seek help for yourself. You may be dealing not only with relationship issues, but also financial and possibly legal issues as well. It is too much for most people to try to “power through” alone, and by doing so you risk developing ineffective or damaging coping techniques.

Family Counseling Can Aid with Recovery

Strong relationships are essential for successful recovery from drug addiction, and many drug rehab programs include family counseling as part of treatment. Family can be a powerful force for change for an addict, and when family members participate in counseling as part of drug rehab, it is more likely the addict will stick with the recovery program. Lower relapse rates have been reported when family counseling is part of recovery, and children of addicted parents especially benefit from family counseling. Family counseling requires active participation and accountability, and that benefits everyone, including the addict.

Handling a family member’s addiction is as taxing and demanding as handling any other major illness in the family. Fortunately, there are many options for support groups for families of addicts, and resources like Al-Anon are often available every day, so there is no need to wait. If you love someone with an addiction, we invite you to click here to learn more about admissions.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.