Resources for Families and Loved Ones
A change to one person’s behavior in the family has a major impact on every member of the family circle.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re the mother, the grandmother, the cousin or the best friend—you can still be severely affected by the addiction of someone you love; however, it’s those same emotional ties that put you in a position to help your loved one make a positive change.
What to Do if A Family Member is Addicted
Family, friends and loved ones are often motivators for those struggling with addiction to get help. You can help you loved one in several ways:
- Encouraging them to accept help
- Assisting them with enrolling in a treatment program
- Providing support without enabling
The family resource guides provided here will help you gather general information about addiction, getting a loved one into treatment, working through issues like payment and insurance, getting help for yourself, and more.
We are here to help you every step of the way. You can call to speak to our admissions navigators any time, day or night at to discuss the best ways to help your loved one.
Resources for Helping Friends or Family with Addiction
Learning more about addiction and addiction treatment can ease your fears and reservations about treatment for your family member, help you aid your loved one with addiction, and give you tips on taking care of yourself.
- Guide for Parents (Helping an Adult Child)
- Guide for Children (Helping an Addicted Parent)
- Guide for Spouses
- Guide for Friends
- Guide for Colleagues
How to Know if My Loved One Is Addicted to Alcohol or Drugs
Knowing when someone you love is addicted can be difficult – in many cases, your spouse, child, parent, or sibling may hide their use or insist they have it under control. Addiction can look very different in different people.
However, in many cases what will be apparent are changes (e.g., in routines, appearance, behaviors) in connection with your family member’s growing compulsion for continued substance use despite overt negative consequences. All told, there are several physical, mental, and behavioral warning signs that your family member needs help with their addiction.
Signs a Family Member is Addicted
Though effects vary according to the specific substance or substances being used, some general physical signs of drug use include:1
- Weight loss or gain paired with a change in eating habits.
- Changes in the eyes—for example, abnormally large or small pupils or red, glassy eyes.
- Dental changes with tooth decay and discoloration.
- Skin may show the signs of substance abuse with burn marks on the mouth or fingers, redness or bruises around injection sites, or sores and scratches.
Your family member’s emotional or mental state may change, as well. You might notice:1,2
- Mood changes or mood instability.
- Increased worry and anxiety.
- Signs of hallucinations.
- Signs of delusional thinking.
You may also notice significant behavior changes in your family member, including:3
- Changing interests and friends.
- Decreased communication.
- Increasing isolation.
- Energy changes (feeling abnormally energetic or lethargic).
- Worsening performance at work or school.
- Neglect of personal or social responsibilities.
- Financial trouble/increasing requests for money.
- Criminal activity/legal repercussions.
Helping vs Enabling a Family Member’s Alcoholism or Drug Addiction
Those struggling with substance use stand to benefit greatly from the positive support of family; however, helping an addicted person can be a difficult path to navigate. Sometimes, you may feel like you are helping them, but you’re really doing more harm than good—in other words, enabling their addiction.
For example, you may want to handle your sister’s legal problems or pay her rent, but by doing so, you could be enabling her to continue spending all her money on drugs or alcohol. While your attempts to help are well-intentioned, the long-term effect is that her daughter’s substance use is likely to continue and get worse.1
Enabling can drain you of energy and resources and is unlikely to improve the situation in the long term. A better approach is to set healthy boundaries while continuing to encourage your family member to enter treatment.
One of the best ways to avoid enabling is by setting limits and not changing them. If you constantly adjust them, they will become meaningless. Setting clear limits and boundaries and staying consistent provides you the space you need to take care of yourself, while putting the responsibility of your family member’s actions where they belong: on them.3
Of course, not all forms of providing support—even financial—is enabling. Many people enter drug or alcohol treatment programs with the assistance of their families and achieve long-term sobriety. But helping a loved one with addiction doesn’t need to take the form of loaning or giving someone money.
Rewarding your loved one’s healthy behaviors, such as thanking them through verbal or physical communication, taking them to a movie, or going on a walk together costs little-to-nothing and can go a long way.4
It’s important to understand that you alone cannot make your family member stop using. The best you can do is to set boundaries, while providing encouragement, support, and reinforcement. They must do the rest.5,6
Find Drug or Alcohol Rehab for a Family Member
When your loved one has an addiction, one of the best ways to help them is to foster their entry into professional addiction treatment. For many, addiction is too imposing an issue to tackle alone, and becomes even more difficult to address when there are co-occurring disorders such as depression that may be contributing to substance use.
What to Look for in Rehab Facilities for a Loved One
If your family member is ready to enter treatment, you can help them follow through by assisting with choosing a program. When considering treatment, look for centers with:7
- Facilities conducive to recovery. Too many distractions or poor conditions can remove the focus from sobriety.
- Expert staff. Staff should be credentialed and experienced in addiction treatment.
- Evidence-based treatments. Make sure the staff are using sound therapeutic tools backed by research, such as evidence-based therapies for addiction treatment and medication-assisted treatment.
- A comprehensive approach. The best treatment centers look at more than only the addiction. They look for ways to improve the overall well-being and health of your family member.
- Individualized care. Rather than providing the exact same treatment to all patients, a customized treatment plan may better accommodate each patient’s unique needs.
The Family’s Role in Addiction Treatment
Different family-based treatments may take place in inpatient, outpatient, and community settings. The goals of family treatment include:8
- Improving family relationships and communication.
- Providing addiction education to family members, including the best ways to support the recovery of loved ones.
Specific types of family-based treatment include:8,9
- Community reinforcement approach (CRA). This 24-week intensive outpatient program focuses on improving family relationships while teaching skills needed to minimize substance use and develop healthier habits.
- Community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT). CRAFT is an alternative to a staged intervention that involves training family members to no longer reward unwanted behaviors and improve their communication styles.
- Family behavioral therapy (FBT). This approach combines behavioral contracts and contingency management and engages the family in helping the addicted person to apply new skills learned in therapy.
If you have a teenage son or daughter, you have other specific treatment options designed specifically for adolescents:8
- Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT). This includes family and individual sessions to improve communication skills and modify the teen’s network of influence.
- Functional family therapy (FFT). FFT is based on the notion that the teen’s behaviors are part of larger family dysfunction and works to restore the health of the family system.
Paying for Addiction Rehab for A Family Member
Whether inpatient or outpatient, many treatment programs will be covered, at least in part, by health insurance. If your family member has insurance or your insurance covers that person, consider calling the company directly to learn more about how much coverage a specific plan provides and which programs are in-network.
Your loved one can check whether their insurance covers treatment at Desert Hope by completing the confidential . Additionally, they can explore financing options by completing the questionnaire below.
Caring for Yourself Through a Loved One’s Addiction
Many people who love someone who is suffering from addiction invest all their energy into worrying about and taking care of that person and, in the process, end up neglecting themselves entirely. Attending to your own health, however, can you help you better support your loved one.
You can take care of your physical health by:10,11
- Eating well. Choose fresh foods and water, and avoid too much caffeine or sugar.
- Increasing physical activity. Finding small ways to add activity to your day, like taking walks with a friend, can help reduce stress and keep your energy up.
- Getting adequate sleep. When you’re well-rested, you may be better equipped to handle the stresses of supporting a family member who is struggling with addiction.
You can support your mental and emotional health by:10,11
- Trying relaxation techniques. With a wide array of options like progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), guided imagery, deep breathing, and mindfulness, there is a relaxation technique for you.
- Asking for help. The pressure to manage caretaking alone can become unbearable. Try to let people help you.
- Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you work through troubling issues and find solutions.
- Setting boundaries. Creating appropriate and sustainable boundaries may be uncomfortable at first but will prevent you from overextending your resources an enabling the addiction.
- Engaging in pleasurable activities. Spending time outside of the house doing activities you enjoy will refresh your body and your mind while giving you the opportunity to reflect on the situation with a clear mind.
Additional options for self-care and support include:10,11
- Outpatient individual, family, or group therapy.
- Toll-free hotlines to discuss your concerns.
- Support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.
Family members of patients that undergo treatment at Desert Hope get access to the Family Support Team reachable through the American Addiction Centers (AAC) Recovery App. Through the app, you’ll be able to:
- Post content and engage with other families.
- Track healing milestones.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- View and interact with inspiring videos, podcasts, and blogs on relevant topics.
Posts and content on the Recovery App are kept private within their respective communities (i.e., your loved one will communicate only with staff and other alumni, and you’ll communicate only with the Family Support Team and other families).
If your family member needs help, don’t try to do it all alone. Please reach out to an admissions navigator at and help your loved one start treatment as soon as possible.