The Role of Family in Addiction Recovery: Q & A

Addiction and recovery affect more than just the person abusing substances.


Addiction almost always affects the family as well.


While it’s taxing to have a family member battling addiction, it is beneficial when family members can be part of a person’s support system. Not sure if your loved one needs help? See our guide 6 Signs Your Loved One Needs Help Now


Here are some common questions about a family’s role in addiction recovery:


How can someone support a family member in addiction recovery?


The number one thing any family member can do is to ask, “how can I support you through this?”


Every person is different and everyone has different needs and desires. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

    • Set boundaries from other family members who are using drugs or alcohol
    • Ask if it’s OK for you to have a drink with dinner or not when you’re together
    • Ask permission to check in on them by inquiring where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing
    • Attend family seminars / groups for loved ones of those in treatment or inpatient rehab
    • See if they need rides to get to counseling appointments or support group meetings
    • If your family member doesn’t know how you can help, ask if you can come to a counseling session with them


The most important thing is to have open and honest communication. When family members build trust and openness, they become a positive part of the other person’s support network and can help them in their journey to recovery. If you need help talking with your loved one about addiction, here is a guide we put together to help you.


What if someone doesn’t have family members to support them?


Not everyone has family members to support them while they’re in inpatient rehab or other treatment. Whether a person has family members or not, it’s important to identify safe people who are supportive and trustworthy. It could be friends who don’t use drugs or alcohol, other members of a support group, or members of community group like a church.


A successful recovery usually depends on a person having a strong support network and it’s not always possible, or preferable, to have family members in that group.



What if someone doesn’t want their family’s support?


When someone is an adult, they get to decide for themselves whether they want to receive the support of their friends or family. It can be frustrating if a family member doesn’t want family involvement but healthcare and privacy laws protect clients and their personal information. Sometimes that means that family members want to be involved but the client has the ultimate decision in sharing information with family members or not.


What if my struggling family member is a teen?


If your struggling family member is a teen, our Multidimensional Family Therapy Program (MDFT) might be a good fit for you and them. MDFT is a family-centered approach to therapy for youth and young adults exhibiting problem behaviors like substance abuse, aggression, school problems and more.


Is it common for family members to play a supporting role?


By the time a person gets treatment, it’s common for their consequences to have burned a lot of bridges with friends and family. Trust and support can be reestablished, but family members usually don’t know where to start. That’s why it’s important to have open and honest communication about what a family member can do to support the person in recovery.


What do family members need to do to care for themselves when someone in their family member is in addiction recovery?


Self care is important for the family members of someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. Caring for someone through the ups and downs of recovery can be emotionally exhausting. It is important for family members to set boundaries. Here are examples of boundaries that a person can set:

  • Not allowing drugs or alcohol in the home
  • Saying, “No,” to drug using friends in the home
  • Declining to give money—whether that is for food, groceries, gas or substances
  • Refusing to “cover” for a family member or help them hide their addiction
  • Deciding not to bail the family member out of jail or fix their other problems for them


For more support, many family members enroll in groups designed to help loved ones such as Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a support group where friends and relatives of alcoholics can share their experiences, strength and hope as they live alongside their loved ones battling addiction.


Families can play an important role in addiction recovery, but just like the person battling the addiction, the family’s journey is full of ups and downs as well.


If you have any questions or want to talk through your situation, we are just a phone call away.