Family Support and Information

It is challenging to watch a loved one struggle through a battle with substance use. We want so badly to help or to do something to change their behavior, however, rarely are we taught how to offer support. Furthermore, the line between support and enablement is thin and it is quite easy to perpetuate a loved one’s substance use unwittingly when intending to be supportive (i.e., not addressing lies or offering money to someone in active addiction). Below are some tips for navigating that line and setting up your loved one for a healthy future in recovery.

Educate Yourself
  • One of your greatest resources is knowledge about the experience of living with substance use disorder and why it can be difficult to surmount. Substance use disorder is a disease that impacts and transforms the brain and understanding this will allow you to communicate to the person you are supporting what the science of addiction is.
  • Take a NARCAN training. Just in case of emergencies, NARCAN rapidly reverses an opioid overdose and is not harmful if given to someone who is not experiencing an overdose. By taking training, you could save a life. Most training provided is free and can be found at your county’s health department.
  • Attend an Al-Anon Meeting. Al-Anon members are people, just like you, who are worried about someone with a substance use disorder. Creating a support network can provide you with more insight into your loved one. Please visit for more information and meetings near you.
Encourage Them to Attend (and Stay in) Treatment
  • Your loved one may be hesitant or resistant to receiving treatment, whatever form that may take (i.e., in-patient treatment or support groups). You can help kickstart their road to recovery by consistently encouraging them to seek treatment once they are ready. Depending upon the type and setting of the treatment you may be able to accompany them to sessions.
  • Need help with an intervention? Most treatment programs can help! Local support can be found at this website:
Set Healthy Boundaries
  • By setting boundaries with your loved ones you make it understood that while you are there to support them you will not accept certain behaviors and will not enable behaviors that are hurting them.
  • “A boundary-setting conversation may sound something like: ‘I care for you, therefore I cannot support behavior that destroys you. I’m here anytime you need my help to seek treatment, but I cannot offer you money when you are using” (Galles, 2020).
Be Honest
  • Honesty should be cultivated and emphasized in the relationship with your loved one. This means you explicitly and clearly address problem behaviors instead of ignoring or sugarcoating them. The latter enables secrecy and tacitly allows your loved one to continue their behavior. Cultivating honesty in the relationship allows your loved ones to be comfortable candidly sharing their feelings and challenges with you.
Avoid Using Substances Around The Person You Are Supporting
  • Being around others who are drinking or using makes your loved one’s road to recovery more of a burden, reminding them of the feeling of substances, triggering a desire to use. If the environment is free of these triggers, it frees your loved one to focus on healthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Engage in Healthy Habits Together
  • Your loved one’s life likely revolved around drinking or using, particularly as ways to interact with others or to pass the time. You can establish new healthy and fun habits or hobbies by finding activities to engage in together that support a well-rounded healthy lifestyle. This demonstrates that fun and connection can be had in recovery without the need for substances.
Let Go
  • Ultimately your loved one’s recovery is out of your hands; it is their journey. Remind yourself of this and understand you have done everything you can.
Take Care of Yourself
  • This likely will be a stressful, challenging time not only for your loved one but for you and your whole family. It is important to care for yourself during this time, allowing you to be present and supportive of your loved one. Look for any activity that recharges you or reduces stress (i.e., spiritual practice, exercise, reading). Seeking therapy for yourself during this period may also be useful.


Galles, K. ( 2020, April 1). How to Support a Loved One in Recovery. American Addiction Centers.