How to Provide a Family Member Support and Help in Recovery From Addiction

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Family Support and Help in Recovery

By:  Rick Fannin

Going to rehab for addiction is no easy process. It can be an emotional roller coaster for the addict and for their family.   While it is certainly something that can be very rewarding, it can also be something that can be highly challenging.  Do you know that family plays a significant role by providing help in the recovery efforts of your loved one?

Substance use disorder doesn't just change the life of an individual struggling with the disease; it can also affect the lives of people close to them. They may become moody or emotionally unstable and withdraw from their family and friends.  The toxic shame your loved one is likely to experience may contribute to their cycle of addiction.

If you have a loved one with substance abuse problems, you may feel sad or angry. It's okay to feel this way. It's also important to acknowledge they need your help and support in outpatient drug rehab.

Going into rehab is the first step to a substance-free life, and it's not an easy one. However, recovery is much more than just discontinuing the use of drugs or alcohol.

How to Provide Support and Help in Recovery Efforts of a Loved One.

If your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, they may opt for an outpatient treatment program, like the one at PUSH for Recovery in Columbus, Ohio.  An outpatient rehab is a flexible option and ideal setup if your loved one has other responsibilities and wants to stay home.

In recovery from addiction, family support in recovery plays a significant role. The more sober social support a person gets while they are in addiction treatment, the easier it will be to focus on what matters, getting and staying sober.  If you have a loved one currently seeking outpatient addiction treatment or are about to go to rehab, learn how you can provide support and help in recovery for your loved one.

Learn About Addiction

One of the most helpful things that a family member can do for their loved one going through treatment is to learn more about addiction.  Plenty of resources are available online and in the library.  It would also be good to talk with the treatment center staff about any reading materials they would recommend.

As with anything on the internet, it is essential to make sure that you get your information from a reliable and credible source. The only thing worse than not learning about addiction would be to get unhelpful and untrue information.

You can get started with educating yourself about addiction by reading over the research-based addiction information posted on the PUSH for Recovery website.  Understanding that addiction is a disease, the cycle and stages of addiction, and how addiction affects the family and relationships will give you a better understanding of your loved one and help.

Know Their Recovery Program

First, educate yourself about the type of substance addiction your loved one is battling and possible treatment options.  Every case is different, so you need to work to understand what you can expect by doing research and asking your loved one's treatment team.  Ask them about the physical and mental health risks, myths about substance abuse, myths about medically assisted treatment and medications like suboxone and Vivitrol, and things you can and can't do to support them.

Outpatient treatment programs allow your loved one to go home and go to work or school. However, they need to be fully committed to their recovery. They are expected to complete their treatment while managing their responsibilities outside rehab. Knowing the different types of outpatient treatment and what the requirements are will help you best provide support.

Day programs, like the PUSH for Recovery Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), require patients to come into the rehab facility five days a week for multiple hours each day. During this time, they participate in therapy, group counseling, and other supplementary therapies like music or art therapy.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) have established treatment plans with measurable results that track progress.  Multiple sessions each week for counseling, group therapy, and participation in 12-step support groups may be required.   Because the demands of this treatment are much higher, ask if you can help with practical things like running errands, helping with meals, or providing transportation to treatment or 12-step meetings.

Coordinate with the Treatment Team

The most important thing you can do to help your loved one during their treatment is to work with their care team regarding their treatment process. There may be certain parts of your loved one's stay that will be more challenging than others. There also may be times where family input is necessary to the treatment process. Either way, it is always a good idea to stay up to date on what is going on with your loved one so that you can know the best way to be supportive. It is important to note that this will only be possible if your loved one signs a release of information due to privacy laws.

Family therapy is one of the many aftercare treatments offered at many outpatient addiction rehab treatment centers. When the entire family visits the addict in treatment, they can better see how he or she is doing and provide support and encouragement. As family members, you can also better understand what your addicted loved one is going through and observe the patterns and experiences that may have led them to substance abuse.

Research has found that the family plays an important role in the ability of family members to recover from alcohol or drug addiction.  These studies found that "Compared to individual therapies alone, which have been shown to be effective by themselves, treatments that integrated significant others were associated with even better substance use outcomes (e.g., frequency, the quantity of use) and reductions in substance-related problems. Specifically, the researchers estimated that this equated to a 6% reduction in substance use overall compared to individual therapy without significant other involvement."

Take Care of Things at Home

The more you can take care of things back home for your loved ones while they are in treatment, the better they will be able to focus on getting the help they need. Handling things back home may take a team of people to accomplish, and the coordination may be a hassle, but it will be well worth your efforts. Often, people going through a hard time in treatment will use whatever excuse they can find to get home early. It is important to remember that a person's best chances for success will rely on completing their entire treatment program. The more excuses you can help eliminate, the better off you all will be.

Show Compassion and Empathy

While it is certainly understandable and practically expected that there will be things you are upset about with your loved one due to their addiction, it is vital to be as empathetic and as encouraging as possible.  Kindness and compassion go a long way in rehab.

Showing empathy does not mean that you should excuse their destructive behavior; on the contrary, those are things that need to be dealt with and addressed before your loved one comes home. The thing is that there will be a time and a place for you to discuss those things with your loved one, and sometimes rushing into that process before the right time can be more of a hindrance than a help. If possible, try to be as understanding as possible while your loved one is working to make the changes that are needed for them to live a better life.

Understand That There Will Be Ups and Downs

Educate yourself with the stages of recovery and the barriers that individuals face while attempting to recover from addiction.  While in treatment, your loved one will be doing great on some days and feels on top of the world and other days where your loved one wants to give up and come home early. These are all normal feelings and are expected. When you prepare for the ups and downs of recovery, you can deal with them as they occur.

Get Help For Yourself

If you're reading this, it's probably because you've been negatively affected by a loved one's addiction. The truth of the matter is addiction is harmful to both the addict and their loved ones and can cause just as much damage to those who are on the sidelines.

Often, family members blame themselves for their loved one's substance abuse or they feel guilty because they can't seem to help. They may also suffer from feelings of intense anger and frustration because they just don't understand why their loved one can't put down the bottle and walk away from it forever.

Al-Anon is a great way for family members of addicted loved ones to get involved in the recovery process while their loved one is enrolled in sober living and finds support for themselves.

Al-Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else's alcohol abuse.1 Newcomer are welcome to attend whether or not their loved one recognizes their alcoholism or is currently receiving treatment for it. Anyone can attend and membership is free.

The focus of Al-Anon is on the member, not the alcoholic, and members are taught that although they can improve their attitude regarding recovery:

  1. they did not cause the addiction,
  2. they cannot cure it,
  3. they cannot control the behaviors of their addicted loved one.

There are many benefits of participating in Al-Anon, such as:

  • Sharing common experiences with individuals in similar situations
  • Studying the 12 Steps of Al-Anon to encourage positive life changes
  • Sharing experience, strength, and hope with others
  • Combatting feelings of loneliness and isolation

Al-Anon also helps members deal with common problems like overly excessive and harmful caretaking, dealing with guilt and blame, and differentiating between love, pity, and loyalty to the alcoholic.

People in recovery can also benefit from their loved one's involvement in Al-Anon. Studies show that when a recovered alcoholic is actively involved in AA, and their spouse is involved in Al-Anon, the person in recovery is more likely to remain sober, the marriage is more likely to be happy, and the parenting among both is likely to improve.2,3

Establish Healthy Boundaries

You must establish healthy boundaries with your loved ones during their treatment and when they get home. If possible, it is a good idea to lay down these expectations with your loved ones before they get home. A good program will assist you and your loved one through this process. It isn't reasonable to expect that a person goes to treatment, then goes home, and everything is better. Much of the work needed to live a sober lifestyle will begin when your loved one returns home; the treatment process prepares them for this transition.

Address Your Relationship with Drugs or Alcohol

It would be wise for you not to use drugs or alcohol around your loved ones when they return home from treatment and that you do not keep drugs in the house. If you have prescription medications that have a potential for abuse, it would be well worth your effort to purchase a safe and keep them locked up. If you feel that it is an unreasonable request to stay sober around your loved one, then it may be time that you look at your relationship with drugs or alcohol and, if needed, seek help as well.

Addiction Family Resource List

The Family Resource List is a collection of our favorite resources that we hope will help you find some support and answers along the way of your loved one’s recovery. These resources can be instrumental in growing insight into the family’s perspective, role, and journey through the disease of addiction. It can also help you understand, identify, and work towards a common goal with your loved one during and after treatment.

Support Groups

Al-Anon Family Groups

Nar-Anon Family Groups

Caron Parent & Family Support Groups

Mental Health – NAMI Family Support Groups

Co-Dependents Anonymous

Families Anonymous

SMART Recovery Family & Friends Online

Celebrate Recovery (Christian – based)

Because I Love You


Recommended Books / Materials

Al-Anon Approved Literature

Staying Sober by Terence Gorski

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Nar-Anon SESH by Nar-Anon Family Groups

One Day at a Time in Al-Anon by Al-Anon Family Groups

Many Voices, One Journey by Al-Anon Family Groups

Intimacy in Alcoholic Relationships by Al-Anon Family Groups

Addict in the House: A No-Nonsense Family Guide Through Addiction and Recovery by Robin Barnett, Ed.D, LCSW

Addict in the Family: Stories of Love, Hope, and Recovery by Beverly Conyers

Everything Changes: Hope for Families of Newly Recovering Addicts by Beverly Conyers

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

SMART Recovery Family & Friends Handbook

On the Other Side of Chaos: Understanding the Addiction of a Loved One by Ellen Van Vechten

So You’re in Love with an Addict by Heather O’Hara

The Enabler: When Helping Hurts the Ones You Love by Angelyn Miller

When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart: Coping with Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and the Problems That Tear Families Apart by Joel L. Young, MD

When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness: A Handbook for Families, Friends and Caregivers by Rebecca Woolis, MFT

Faith-Based Books / Materials

Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

Overcoming Emotional Obstacles through Faith: Navigating the Mind Field by Anthony Acampora, Director of Banyan’s Faith in Recovery Program

Christian Families in Recovery: A Guide for Addiction, Recovery, and Intervention Using God’s Tools of Redemption by Robert and Stephanie Tucker

Lost and Found: Recovery in Christ by Bruce Stanley

Addiction Memoirs

Dreamseller: An Addiction Memoir by Brandon Novak

The Brandon Novak Chronicles by Joe Frantz and Brandon Novak

Aiming High: How a Prominent Sports and Celebrity Agent Hit Bottom at the Top by Darren Prince, Kristen McGuiness, and Earvin “Magic” Johnson



  1. AAETS – Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children and Families
  1. Al-Anon -
  1. Addiction in Family – Unhealthy Families
  1. Ariss, T., & Fairbairn, C. E. (2020). The effect of significant other involvement in treatment for substance use disorders: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 88(6), 526–540. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000495 
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