Family support for drug addicts – How to support an addict in recovery

Family can support drug addicts in recovery. Mainly through encouragement and interest. Tips for family support for drug addicts here.

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So someone in your life has decided to give up their addiction. You want to support them. How do you do it?

Following are some basic suggestions for supporting your addict in recovery. We invite you to share your experiences or ask questions about providing recovery support at the end. We try to answer every question with a personal and prompt response.

Family support for drug addicts in recovery

1. Be encouraging.

How to support a drug addict in recovery? The best support you can give is to simply be encouraging. Encourage your recovering addict to share their feelings with you and make the environment safe enough that the addict can trust you and be open and honest.  Encourage your loved one coping with urges and cravings to hang in there.  Encourage your family member with kind words and kind treatment.

2. Go to meetings.

If they are attending 12 step or self help meetings and ask you to go along, feel free to do so. It is nice to have someone you care about attend an open 12 step meeting with you to learn and meet fellows in recovery and learn about addiction recovery spirituality.

3. Keep drugs or alcohol out of reach.

Preventing relapse in substance abuse is key to continued sobriety.  As much as possible, keep the addict’s drug of choice out of site if you have it in the home, and try to abstain from personally using when in contact.

4. Encourage routines.

Encourage your addict to eat properly, sleep properly, exercise, take meds exactly as prescribed, keep all recovery appointments and meeting commitments, live a healthy lifestyle keep their recovery the top priority in their lives. As the new behaviour becomes ingrained in the user, they will ease into mainstream living.

5. Have realistic expectations.

Recovery for the addict will take time. Patience is required. Think how long it took your addict to hit bottom and get into recovery. Behaviour changes will not happen overnight.

6. Forgive and forget.

Yelling, screaming and throwing up the past constantly will not help!

In sum, openly caring about your addict and their recovery will support someone new to addiction recovery. Simply being there, learning to understand the issues, encouraging new positive behaviour; these are things you can do.

Family support for drug addiction questions

Still have questions about how to support a loved one who is a drug addict? You are not alone! Please leave your questions, comments and share your experiences here. We will try our best to respond to your questions with a personal reply…within a day, or two!

About the author
I am a Master Life Coach who is ICF certified and a certified addictions coach. I consider myself recovered from the effects of addiction (16 years) but still in recovery mode as it relates to personal growth. Professionally, I am university educated, a former corporate CEO and have been in the consulting business for over two decades. I'm a husband, father, grandfather, friend, uncle son, a trusted confidant and many other things but bottom line, I'm Keith. I hope that I can help SOME out there with ideas that will make you think deeply.


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  1. My brother will be 60 years old this year and he is still shooting heroine.

    My mother left a property in my name only. Up until 2 months ago I was splitting the profits from the rented property with him. He lives in the same city as the property but does nothing to help in its management.

    For over 4 years I have successfully managed the property from over 600 miles away. Recently I called to ask him a question that pertained to the property. He took his time getting back to me even though he does not have a job or kids (that he is responsible for). I stopped sending him money after that.

    He was not available when my Mom was ill. He stole money from her (she was blinded by Glaucoma and suffered from Alzheimer). He would take her to the bank making her think she was signing something for him. Before she lost her sight and was hit by Alzheimer she also paid his rent for years.

    I guess I have had it with his selfish, self-serving, self-centered attitude. His lack of respect for anyone or anything.

    My question is should I continue to send him money?

    I used to talk to my Mom about enabling him. However, I feel bad about not splitting the money with him. The property is not mine, I didn’t pay for it, she was him Mom too. Do I have an obligation to split the profits with him?

    1. Hi Joyce. That’s a decision you should make it on your own. However, giving money even though they belong to him is enabling. Think how can you support, and help your brother. You may also consult with other family members and a loved one about your issues.

  2. I have been with my alcoholic husband for 7 yrs. He can go 3 month without drinking and then BAM he is on a bender. He has been to numerous rehabs, has 4 DD’s, did the court program and got kicked out bc he couldn’t comply. He has totaled out 2 vehicles within 1 1/2 yrs. He has no drivers license and got very ill a year ago, and it’s trying for disability. He has messed up sleep patterns, no schedule what so ever. I work full time to support our 5 and 14 yr old daughters, Him and myself. While I am at work he has actually taken our 14 yr olds bicycle and rode it 6 miles round trip to store for booze. He has taken her moped before, now I hide the keys to it. Please any advice or help would be wonderful! I am desperate and I truly wonderful if he even has a rock bottom or will it be the coffin?! I am extremely codependent and I know this, I need help!!

    1. Hi Angela. There is a lot going on for you. First, I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. Allies in Recovery, an NGO, has some online reading that may help:
      I also think it would be worth talking to a trusted spiritual or community leader or to confide in someone that you trust. Moreover, check out Narc-Anon for yourself. It’s a 12 step program for families of addicts. Finally, seek professional support through a family counselor, with experience in addiction.

  3. It is so important for each person in recovery from drug addiction to see tangible support from friends and family members. This is a critical part of the recovery process as they seek to rebuild a solid foundation for their new life beyond substance abuse. This is a great list to help family and friends be supportive.

  4. I need help with my son, I’m afraid to lose him completely to drugs, him and his girlfriend when to San Diego got in a fight and left him on the street homeless, they have a beautiful little girl she’s going to be 3 years old, I don’t know how to help him his his been in rehab twice and every time him and his girlfriend get together he looses it, she has been in rehab also, and all they do is fight, I want my son to have a normal life, his got the most beautiful hart, I don’t have the money to get him a place to live, all he wants is be be off the streets and I don’t know how to help him. I have my 87 year old mother leaving with me and I don’t have the money to have him leaving with me at this moment, it brakes my hart to think his homeless.

    1. Hi Rosie. It’s so heartbreaking to read your story because I can feel your heart break when you speak about your son’s potentials. I do believe he needs to go to rehab again if he is an active user again. Then, comes the recovery period. The job is not done when he is not taking drugs for a while or when he exits the rehab facility. Maintaining sobriety is an ongoing process that he will have to work on for years and years.

  5. My son is living on the streets. He relapsed after going to rehab (detox) for 10days. He calls when he is hungry and I go to him and get him something to eat. I try to talk to him about going back to rehab for a longer period of time. He says that the ones that get off the drug have more money to go to better centers. He is on Tenn care ( amerigroup). I’ve been looking on Google to try and find one better that takes his insurance but it’s hard. Am I doing wrong or enabling him by getting him something to eat. I’m so scared when I see him that it may be the last time. Can anyone please tell me what I should do. I feel like I’m dying inside.

    1. Hello Donna. I suggest you call the helpline number displayed on our site to get in touch with our trusted treatment providers. They will help you find the most suitable help for your son that fits his needs, as well as health insurance. The best part of their services is that once he attends their program, if he ever relapses, they will take him back for free.

  6. Being realistic is crucial for a family member to stand on as their loved one takes the journey to sustainable recovery. While the line between support and enabling is razor-thin at times, self-refletion on the part of those who love someone struggling with any addiction is incredibly important as well being that there are many similarities in behaviours and the reactions that have been set into place with the glaring cog being the stress and anxiety that comes from fear. For the addict, that fear speaks to the lack of confidence that it is possible to feel “normal”, to be accepted and forgiven, and to be surrounded by compassion and empathy. For those who love someone struggling with any addiction, the fear is based predominantly on whether personal reactions over time have prompted the situation to develop and a deep-seated doubt as to whether the addict understands the desire within the family to see the family unit healed because the addict is deeply loved. In the end, both are looking to fill the fundamental need to be loved, understood and respected.

  7. My son just got out of recovery. He’s been out one week and already showing signs of some use.
    How do i not play a part in his continued behavior. Be stern ok?? Now what

  8. My husband of 43 years passed away 18 months ago and i have been having a difficult time dealing with this loss. In January, I innocently began corresponding with an old high school friend, (male) who became a wonderful emotional support to me. As the months have passed, we have become more serious.We both feel that our coming together was a “God thing for both of us. He lives about 400 miles away and he has come to visit about 6 times and I have been to his home once. He was beginning to pack and prepare to move in with me. When we began the relationship, he told me was a recovering alcoholic and had been without drink for 3 years.I felt “safe” that alcohol would not be an issue since he had been sober for so long. Now, 6 months later, he confessed to me that he has only been sober since Jan. 3 of this year. On his way home two weeks ago, he had an auto accident and though uninjured, the car was totaled. Today, when I spoke with him, he told me that last night he had drunk again and his brother was there with him. (His brother has been without alcohol for 20 years.) Everything was too much for him to deal with and he turned to alcohol. I have never drunk alcohol or smoked and am finding this very upsetting and confusing. I know very little about alcoholism, but am very concerned about further serious involvement with this man. I love him dearly and don’t know if I should use tough love or “be there for him.” I really want to do both! My husband had been ill for many years and after his death, I feel emotionally fragile and don’t know if I can deal with the drama of living with someone so newly recovering. His brother is suggesting a half way house for at least 6 months before we consider moving in together. What would you suggest?

  9. Hello P. What a tough situation to be in. I empathize with you, as you must be feeling lots of conflicting emotions: anger, disappointment, sadness. I’d suggest that you consult with the treatment center he attended. Inform them of what’s going on and ask for help. Either your son requires immediate (more long term) treatment, counseling, or to live in a halfway house. Because something’s not working for him (or you) when he’s in your home.

  10. What now? My son came home from a 6 month rehab program. He has had a major relapse. All behaviors in a contract that he signed off on which would be deemed unacceptable, he has violated. He is once again turning my home upside down. Since I am a widow and mom and have a working life and have limited resources and assistance, I don’t know what I can do for this 27 year old young man. He is calling in sick to work. He is spiraling out of control again with his drinking and this progressive disease. I want him to leave my home. I feel like a hostage in my own home. I am thinking of changing the locks. But I’m afraid that won’t work.

  11. Hello Kaylie. This is a really good question. Do you have regular phone calls with your sister? This might be a good starting point. Also, looking into treatment options for her can be a good help.

  12. My sister has been a drug addict for eleven years now. She is finally starting to get better, though she is not in rehab yet and may still be taking prescription drugs. I am not sure how to encourage her since I live abroad. How can I encourage her?
    Thank you!

  13. I live with my boyfriend of five years. He is a middle aged musician who has been through rehab six times for narcotics abuse. None of the prior rehab programs were naro anon suppoorted. He just completed his first Narc Anon rehab where they encouraged family participation in counseling sessions and aftercare meetings.

    During the inpatient rehab, I realized that i was enabling my boyfriends addiction by providing a free place to live while he spent all of his disposable money on drugs. That being said, told him I expect him to contribute to living expenses.

    After his discharge i attended his first narco anon meeting with him. Afterward he decided to join that particular group Nd told me he would go to other meeting places with me but that he did not want me to attend that meeting so that he could feel free to have an open forum.

    He attends meetings everyday after work and does not talk much to me as he is tired and now has his group to talk to. He has told me he will not contribute to living expenses because i live beyond his means., which is clearly a cop out: as he could contribute a prorata share of expenses. He also told me he doesnt talk to me about his recovery issues because i am not an addict and he needs recovering addicts advise, not mine.

    I dont want to be an enabler. And i am not sure if i am being used or if it is normal for adicts to shut out thier non adictted family members. If so, how long does this issolation period usually last?? And how long can i expect that he will need to attend daily meetings?? Clearly, i am anticipating a return to normalcy: is that unrelaistic??

  14. Hi Shanon. I hear you. Have you spoken with a close family member to this man, like his parent or spouse? Or siblings? You might try to collectively plan an intervention and try to get him into treatment.

  15. I am at a job where my boss abuses prescription drugs to get some sort of high. I have come to care about this person and his children, but cannot get over this addiction. It constantly causes a sore spit between us and comes down to some nasty things being said to each other. I know that I mean some of them, but I truly want to be free of the guilt I can fro knowing that he is harming his business and his children because of his addiction.

  16. Hello Jammie. I’d suggest that you see an addictions counselor, go to Al-Anon or Narc-Anon and if you don’t get out of the relationship, at least stop enabling the behavior. Just know that you are not alone!

  17. hi my husband of 7 years overdosed. We have 3 children. Everything im reading is what we have been dealing with. He made it by the grace of god into bradford. We lost our children for 30 days. small town. The cops came into our home looking for the drugs he had overdosed on. Its been 3 months of pure tourture. I did have test for dcs all clean. going back 3 months. To keep this short. Im looking into the eyes of a man thats forced to be clean or we lose our children. God cleans house. I try not to be bitter about the time my children spent in foster care and greatful we got them back so fast. Told they never should have been taken. I had kept his addiction or so i thought hidden. What a joke. I was beaten broken and mentally trying to keep my crap togeather for my kids.Afraid all the time. I had no were to run. Hes 80 days clean. I cant forgive him.He blaims me. He was the master manipulator or you just gave in tired of the fights. Prince charming. Hes clean and i hate him for what hes done. Im always looking over my shoulder and he is even more controling now. Afraid i will leave. Im not sure who the real man is. At least on drugs he had happy at times. but when he ran out you had better run. I protected my children and i belive i lost myself.

  18. Hi Patti. No. Don’t leave your son alone! Being in a treatment center can feel limited and constraining, a lot like prison. People in treatment feel connected and warm when family members visit…and they need the love and support. Don’t think twice about it! Go and visit!

    Plus, you may want to speak with an addictions specialist to learn more about what you can do to support his recovery after he returns to his life. The more knowledgeable and prepared you are, the better. Getting involved with love and without expectation is one of the best things that you can do for your son.

  19. If my 26 year old son is in a residential treatment program for his alcoholism; should I be spending time with him every weekend after his first 30 days of no family? He seems to want to spend time with me and his brother every weekend. My son and I enjoy seeing him sober after so many years of alcohol addiction. But should we be leaving him alone in his recovery?

  20. Hi Sue. I’d suggest that you contact your state’s attorney general’s office and ask this same question. State laws make be in effect in which you can report harm to self or others and make rehab or detox required. Also, check in with your state’s social service office and see what types of services can be provided.

  21. M sister is 40 years old and a drug addict she had a accidential drug over dose. How do I get control of her health care to get her in rehab?

  22. I wish the best for you and your family. I hope that your family member can get into addiction recovery and stop the cycle of addiction.

  23. Hi. Yes this did help:) I called and didnt have to give any of my personal info and reported to their Dr. Thank you for your help, God bless. Anon

  24. Hi Anon.

    In the context of health care, confidentiality is defined as information told in confidence or imparted in secret. However, privacy is not absolute, and must be balanced with the need for the efficient provision of medical care and the availability of resources.

    If you know this person’s doctor, I would suggest that you call the doctor and ask about his/her policy on confidentiality. Check on this first, before you disclose information. And you might also consider calling social services to report drug use…but that could potentially begin a legal process.

    Does this help?

  25. I have a loved one who is abusing prescription drugs and alcohol . I was wondering if I was to contact this persons Dr to report it,would it be confidental or would the Dr have the right to tell the patient who reported them? This is weighing on my heart so much because i feel this person is going to end up killing themslves from their abuse. I just know if this person found out who reported them life would get ugly for so many people including myself. Im so concerned for this persons life and for their young children that live with this daily. Thank you in advance.

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