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  • Writer's pictureMisti Luke, LCSW

Supporting Your Loved One In Active Addiction

Sisters sitting on a dock
Sisters sitting on a dock

For those with family members or loved ones addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s no secret how draining the beast of addiction can be on the entire family circle.

Concerned loved ones often rack their brains about how best to help. Devoted family members sometimes make countless sacrifices for the one lost in addiction. These painstaking efforts can result in the you, the helper, feeling used and abused financially, emotionally and even physically.

The person struggling with the addiction typically doesn’t fully realize, nor at least initially come to terms with the magnitude of impact their addictive actions and behaviors have on those desperately trying to help them.

If you've recently found yourself financially, emotional or physically exhausted after multiple failed attempts of helping your addicted loved one get healthy, this blog post was written with you in mind.

Maybe you feel as if no hope exists for his or her long term recovery. If so, know it’s never too late. A possibility always exists to recover from an alcohol or drug addiction, regardless how serious the addiction. That said, it’s extremely important for you, the helper, to fully understand the alcoholic/addict must choose to get clean and sober for themselves and not for anyone else. The relapse statistics skyrocket for persons who attempt to ditch drugs and alcohol when self-determination is all but absent from the healing equation.

Here are 9 tips to help you- help your loved one struggling with addiction.

1.) Learn Everything You Can About Addiction And Recovery- Knowledge equals power. The more you can learn about addiction the better. Scores of informative books have been written to aid loved ones of addicts and alcoholics.

Below is a short reading list, complete with links, compiled in an effort to support the journey of anyone with a family member or loved addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you’re not a reader, consider downloading the audio versions of these books instead. The cost is minimal and "listening" to books is currently all the rage. .

2.) Seek Out Information And Support From Others- Get advice from professionals, visit with family members or friends of addicts/alcoholics, talk to people who are living in recovery. Any means of first hand information can be a positive source of support and information.

3.) Set Healthy Boundaries - Identifying and practicing healthy boundaries is important in all relationships. Maintaining a healthy relationship with someone in active addition is no exception.

Basic boundaries to set with your addicted loved which can aid in your own self-preservation include, but certainly aren't limited to;

*No drugs or alcohol in your home or presence.

*No drugs or alcohol using friends allowed in your home or presence.

*No money for any reason. Never hand over cash, credit card or check because doing so enables the addiction.

4.) Don't Make Excuses - Making excuses, fibbing or covering for the actions of an addict or alcoholic does NOT help them. It only fuels the addiction and further blurs the boundary lines.

5.) Refrain From Judging - Be aware that no one wakes up and decides, "Hey, I think I'll become an addict/alcoholic." Making judgments about the struggles of another is counter productive to healing.

6.) Have Empathy -not sympathy. Persons struggling with addiction benefit greatly from emotional support and positive encouragement from family and loved ones. Be supportive of your loved one. Encourage them to enter treatment. Display empathy when set-backs occur. Research shows recovery is more likely when strong primary supports are in place.

7.) Don't Expect Miracles Overnight - Recovery takes time and moving towards positive change is a process. It's also extremely painful and messy. Because relapse is often part of the recovery process, expecting drastic changes in the right direction could leave you -the helper feeling empty and disappointed. Learn about the five stages of change here.

8.) Don't Blame Yourself- It's important keep in mind you are not to blame for your loved one's addiction. As human beings, we ultimately cannot control -nor are we responsible for- anyone else's thoughts, feelings, actions or behaviors.

9.) Take Care Of Yourself - Without giant doses of regular self-care, helping a loved one struggling with substance abuse issues can suck the life out of you. Don't risk your physical, emotional, mental or financial well-being in the name of saving your addicted loved one.

The following self-care metaphor relates to commercial airline safety oddly enough and is frequently shared in family member support groups. "Just before take-off, the flight attendant instructs passengers to put their own oxygen mask on first- before helping the passenger(s) sitting nearby. Why is this an important rule for ensuring survival on an airplane as well as surviving as a family member of an addict/alcoholic? Because if you run out of oxygen, you can't help anyone else with their oxygen mask." In short, the more you practice healthy self-care, the more equipped you will be to have a healthy relationship with yourself and your loved one struggling with addictive addiction.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational purposes and do not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you or someone you care about is struggling with a substance abuse issue, contact your primary care physician or other licensed health care provider in your area.

Misti Luke, LCSW is an Oklahoma-licensed behavioral health therapist. She maintains a private counseling practice in Broken Bow where she treats chemical addiction on a case by case basis. For correspondence or to inquire about online addiction treatment services click here or email

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