How families can help addicts

Families can help addicts by learning how to communicate better, setting boundaries, understanding the addict, planning an intervention, or seeking professional help. More tips for families of addicts here.

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Family help for addiction

Many families have a difficult time when a loved one is an addict. And maybe your situation isn’t as extreme as helping a heroin addict, but alcohol and prescription drugs can be equally devastating.  Still, family members need to stop enabling an addict and start to address the underlying problems.

Here are a few suggestions on how to help a loved one who is an addict. And we invite your questions or comments about the role of family members in addiction treatment at the end.

1. Identify three (3) reasons why the addict avoids addiction help

Many people overlook this suggestion for how families can help addicts. But it’s really simple: ask the person who is struggling with alcohol or drugs to list three (3) reasons why they will not get help. At first, they will say all kinds of things. Continue to engage the person and get the three (3) main reasons why they refuse to get help. It might take a couple of tries but listen to what they say. Once you get the answers, WRITE them down on a piece of paper. Note: Fear and frustration are huge factors for the person not getting help.

2. Determine solutions to those barriers

Once you get those three (3) reasons for avoiding addiction treatment, get a professional or an expert to find the solutions to those issues. Share solutions with the addict in question. If you can get rid of the person’s fears, you will increase the chances of the person getting help.

3. Talk to addict instead of talking at them

Nobody wants to be lectured. Be honest with your loved one and tell them that it will require some hard work on their part but that they can get better. If they don’t get help, they will suffer. The person who is struggling is scared and they need help in overcoming their fears and resistance to getting help. Open a conversation about fears . Remember that the key is to find out those fears, and then address possible solutions to those fears. Looking at the situation positively will help you get your message through.  Learning how to set boundaries with an addict can also be very helpful.

4. Walk the addict through the consequences

Another way to convince an addict who is struggling with alcohol or drugs is to get someone who is an expert on addiction and have them do a one on one talk with this person. Someone who has been there – an expert on addiction – should explain to the addict what will happen if they do not get the help they need to get better. Basically, the expert should warn the person of the dire consequences of what will happen if they do not change their ways. The expert should be vivid as possible and hold nothing back. The goal is to convince the person to get help or they will suffer and eventually their life will slowly come to an end.

5. Use addiction specialists or professionals

Try to find a professional or even a former addict who has “Been There” to talk to the person or seek family therapy for alcoh0lism or addiction. This is similar to Step Four, however, instead of warning the person, these professionals can use their skills to talk and try to reason with your family member. These experts are usually trained and can use a proactive approach into trying to convince the addict to get help. The goal is to try to reason and talk with the person so they can get professional help.

6. Plan a family intervention

The formal way to get an addict into treatment and receive the help they need is to perform a family intervention. This is when family members and an interventionist get together with the addict to tell them how they love them and wish that they get help to get better. Each family member takes a turn and tells the person how special they are, how addiction has affected them and they urge the addict of the need to get help. The addict listens and hopefully they become convinced to get the help they need.

Families can help addicts

Hopefully, sooner or later, loving families will be able to get through to an addict. The key is to be persistent. Be very persistent. Also, it would help to have everybody pray for that person. Involving God in your current situation can sometimes produce unexpected results.

About the author
Stan Popovich is the author of "A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods" - an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to:


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  1. Does anyone have a recommendation to a drug rehab center that has had success with a family member? Has anyone heard of the Right Step adolencent rehab center?

  2. My sister is 57 years old. She has been doing drugs since she was 12 or 13. She spend 2 years in Phoenix House and got clean for a while, but not long after that was back into it. She has gone downhill so much lately that she falls down 5 or 6 times a week and injures herself. In this last year alone she has burned herself over a huge part of her body so badly she had to go to the hospital, It took her nearly 2 months to heal from that. brused herself so badly that it lasts for a month. Cut herself from broken glass she fell through. cut herself on broken toilet she fell on. broken her nose from falling and does not remember it at all. I can’t list all the times she has fallen, there are too many. She falls asleep holding lit cigarettes.She’s going to kill herself and those who live in the apartments near her with those d**** cigarettes. She makes phone calls and does things she does not remember. She lives alone. We, her family, all live in other cities or states so we cannot help her without causing us loss of work, expenses in travel, and for those of us with young families, our families suffer at the loss of our presence. We are all feeling hopeless. We have taken her to hospitals after falls and explained (in her absence) what we believe is the cause of her “falls”, drugs. We have made sure that records of these “falls” are made. We have called 911. We have yet to be successful at getting her to help. any suggestions?

  3. Hi De. Yes. I think that you’ll need the help of a professional interventionists. These psychologists and counselors can help you plan an intervention, whose end goal is to get your son into addiction treatment. Ask around through your family doctor, a local addiction treatment center, or at a mental health clinic for referrals to interventionists in your area.

    Does that help?

  4. I have a 21 year old son that was clean from heroin for almost a year. Recently I had noticed behaviors that led me to believe he was using again. I did a hair drug test on him without his knowledge (I am a hairdresser) and it came back positive for both heroin and coke. The test showed coke usage off the charts (constant) and heroin as occasional use. I have already talked to him, saying I think you are in trouble again etc. hoping that would open the door, it didn’t. I feel I have no choice now but to show him the test results. Does anyone have any ideas of what would be the best way to handle this?

  5. Yes, I have attended Al-Anon and I will go back! In fact, it was a good experience. Another issue I need to address is what to do when both parents are not on the same page at the same time. Thanks Jody for the referral to the book!

  6. Hi Lucia. I’m sorry for your pain and the frustration you feel. It can seem like addiction treatment doesn’t work…but it usually means that the addict is not ready to quit. Have you tried attending a support group like Al-Anon to work on your own feelings about addiction and the expectations you have for those around you?

  7. I agree with Ann! There is NOT an addiction program that works! Parents and love ones spend so much money and time but nothing works!!! I believe rehab is created not to work! It gives us false hope just like our children! Bitter? You bet!

  8. Hello Corina. I think you’re talking about personal responsibility. A psychic change needs to occur before an addicts starts taking responsibility for their actions, both past and present. You can have faith that your son will get there, but learn to live and accept that he’s not there yet. Until then, you might want to check out some programs like Al-Anon and Narc-Anon to learn how to live with him in the present. Also, it might help to visit a psychologist, so that you can engage in talk therapy. It is such a difficult place to be in … I wish you all the best.

  9. My son is a heroin addict for 2 years and currently also has a Dui charge.. Been in and out of rehab 3 times and incarcerated currently and will be going into rehab tomorrow. I am wondering of all the things we have been through the stealing, lying, when does a addict realize what they have done and apologize and admit the wrong and thank you for all you have done. It’s so hard for my son to express his feelings or apologize and I just don’t understand this.

  10. There is a new book that really helped me. It’s on Amazon now and is written by a teacher on the topic.It’s called Attracted To Addicts? Break the Patterns of Codependent, Unhealthy Relationships.

  11. Hi Ann. That is so tough. You’ll know in your heart when you can no longer support your daughter. I’d suggest that you speak with a psychologist to air out your feelings and get clear on your personal boundaries. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  12. How many times does a parent have to go through all the steps you suggest? Our family unit suffers each time we think our addict daughter will get and remain sober! When is it the time to let go and say “no more”!

  13. Hi Marguerite. You can call the National Drug Abuse Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP to get connected with the federal database of state and city treatment centers. You can find a treatment center near you and seek help from a professional interventionist. You do not need to (and probably should not) try an intervention alone!

  14. I need help on how to do an intervention for my son and daughter-in-law. I’m at my wits end and don’t know what else to do. Please help..

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