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Helping a Family Member Overcome Substance Abuse

Providing Trusted, Evidence-Based
Treatment for Three Decades and Counting

If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, we’re here to help.

Successful recovery rarely happens without the help of loved ones. If someone in your home struggles with drugs or alcohol, he or she will need you to be involved in every stage of the rehab process. You can help recognize early signs of substance abuse. You can arrange intervention and treatment services. You can support your loved one’s long-term health. No matter where he or she is in addiction or recovery, you can play a major role in helping the person you love to get his or her life back on track.

“My family had an intervention for me,” writes Betsy of Heroes in Recovery, “and Thank God they did! At the time of that intervention, I certainly did not want to go to rehab but I had nowhere else to go. I was no longer welcome at my mother-in-law’s home. Three days later I went to rehab to begin a 30-day stay.”

Mom comforting adult daughterFamilial support is one of the most important factors in overcoming substance abuse. Close family relationships are one of the best ways to protect against substance use and relapse. Homes where family members support each other are homes where recovery can happen.1

Unfortunately, the family can also complicate substance abuse. If adults in the home use drugs or alcohol, it’s more likely that others will do the same. Conflicts at home, chronic unemployment, and inconsistent discipline can contribute to substance abuse in children and teens. One of the best ways for family members to help one another is to get clean and sober themselves.

Recognizing Substance Use Problems in Family Members

Helping a family member overcome a drug or alcohol problem starts with recognizing substance abuse.

The following signs may indicate that a loved one needs help:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Unusual tremors
  • Wearing clothes that conceal the arms or legs
  • Wearing clothes with slogans that promote drug or alcohol use
  • Wearing sunglasses in the house
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Skipping class or work
  • Neglecting favorite hobbies or sports
  • Giving up old friends in favor of a new crowd
  • Refusing to let you meet new acquaintances
  • Constant cough, runny nose or reddened nostrils
  • Unexplained behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression or violent outbursts
  • Poor hygiene and grooming

You don’t need to see all of these signs for a problem to be present. In some cases, you may have nothing more to back up your suspicions than a gut feeling that something’s wrong. If you feel that a family member is in trouble, start a conversation with him or her.

In any case, a calm, nonjudgmental attitude is the best way to approach a family member who has been abusing drugs or alcohol. An angry, punitive approach is likely to shut down communication immediately. Let your loved one know that you care and that you’re there to help. A professional addiction counselor, family therapist, or interventionist can help you find the right words. He or she can guide your conversations so that you help rather than hurt.

How Substance Abuse Harms a Family

Substance abuse harms families. Alcohol use disorder or drug abuse can lead to difficult relationships, arguments that spiral out of control, spousal or child abuse, sexual infidelity, unemployment, poverty, and loss of child custody. Even when the effects aren’t as obvious or dramatic, they are still present.

Addiction is a family disease that stresses every member of the family and has a large impact on the family’s mental and physical health, finances, and relationships. Helping a family member ultimately helps the entire family. Recovery heals damaged relationships and restores balance.2

Understanding the Stages of Recovery

Convincing an addicted family member to get help can be a frustrating experience. Remember that recovery happens in stages. Not every addicted person agrees to get treatment right away. Some early conversations or interventions appear to “fail.” However, it is possible for a person to initially refuse treatment and then return and ask for help later. If families stick to their plans and their communicated consequences, their family member may come back and accept treatment help.3

There are stages of change that every addicted person experiences. In lucky situations, a person may first deny a problem, but gradually come to acceptance, then seek change, engage in treatment, and learn to cope in order to avoid potential relapses. These stages of change move at different paces for every person.

Family Intervention Options

Women holding intervention with friendDon’t wait for a loved one to decide to seek treatment on his own. Your words and actions can create change today. A professional interventionist may help you plan an effective intervention. A certified intervention specialist can help make sure your conversations about substance use are safe and productive. Your interventionist can help you see the difference between helping and enabling.

Interventions do not have to be the large, formal and dramatic events you see on television and in movies. Interventions can involve a series of conversations. They may take place with or without an interventionist present. A professional will help you determine the best and most effective intervention method for your family member. You will then begin the planning process.

Planning an intervention involves education. Professionals help you better understand the situation and your role in it. They help you choose the best treatment options and establish consequences in case a loved one refuses to go. These consequences can range from losing permission to drive the family car to losing joint custody of children depending on the situation.

Personal, environmental and familial factors will also determine the best treatment methods. Because addiction and mental health issues frequently overlap, a treatment center that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment is often the best choice for recovery.Dual diagnosis treatment ensures all aspects of health get the attention and care they deserve. It frequently includes family therapy to involve all members in the healing process. A safe, drug-free home environment is one of the best protections against relapse.

At Michael’s House, we understand the importance of family. We involve you in every step of recovery from early intervention to long-term support. Our holistic approach to recovery ensures your loved one gets the comprehensive care he or she needs. It ensures your family gets the chance to heal as a whole. Contact us any time at 760.548.4032 to find out how you can create a healthy, drug-free family.

Start the Journey Today!



1 NIDA. Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents (In Brief). 1 Oct 2003.

2 National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Family Disease. 24 Feb 2016.

3 National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Intervention: Tips and Guidelines. 25 Jul 2015.