Helping a family member or friend who has problems with substance abuse

If someone you care about has asked for help, validate this important first step in their recovery process. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of courage to seek help and that you will be there to support them. If they are in denial or are minimizing their behavior, encourage them to see a doctor or therapist. Often people will talk to professionals rather than family or friends. 

Learn as much as you can.

Alcoholism and drug dependence are complex problems and do not happen in isolation. However, with support and resources, they can be managed successfully. 

Express your concern

Tell them that you are concerned about them and the impact that substance abuse is having on their lives. You may be met with excuses, denial or anger. Be prepared to respond with specific examples of behaviors that concern you. 

Be supportive and nonjudgmental. 

Do not blame or shame them for their situation. Substance abuse is not about moral failings.  

Set boundaries for yourself. 

Being supportive does not mean assuming their responsibilities. 

Have realistic expectations.

There is no quick fix. Your family member or friend may stop using, but that is not the same as being in recovery. Let them know that the treatment process will include learning and practicing new coping skills.

Recognize that recovery is an ongoing process.

Continue to show that you are concerned about their successful long-term recovery. Remember that everyone’s recovery looks different.

Call WIT’s LifeLine yourself at 215.751.1111

for free supportive counseling and resources as you support your friend or family member.