Family Wellness

5 Dos and Don’ts When Your Loved One Is Struggling with Addiction

June 26th, 2019
Sad middle aged woman

Finding out that your loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol can be heartbreaking. It can leave you feeling angry, hurt, and confused. While it is normal to feel overwhelmed right now, it is important to realize that all hope is not lost. Recovery is possible, and you can help your loved one get there.

You’re most likely wondering what you can do to help? What to say? Where to start? And while there is no set guideline as to how to handle a loved one’s addiction, there are certain “do’s and don’ts” that you should know.

What Not to Do

Don’t Look Down on Them

Being upset at your addicted loved one is normal, but understand that addiction is a disease. They did not wake up one morning and decide to become addicted. Avoid blaming them for their addiction or looking down on them for using drugs or alcohol. There is enough stigma surrounding addiction, and what your loved one needs from you is support not judgement.

Don’t Ignore the Problem

No one ever imagines that addiction will happen to someone they know. So, when it does, it can be very difficult to accept. You may be tempted to ignore the signs of addiction, to make excuses for your loved one, or to deescalate the severity of their addiction. But trying to convince yourself that “it’s not that bad,” or that they’re simply going through a tough time or phase that they’ll snap out of is not doing your loved one any favors. Remember, addiction is a progressive disease, and your loved one will only get worse the more they use or drink.

Don’t Force Them to Quit

When it comes to addiction, tough love rarely works. Ultimatums or forcing them into treatment might work momentarily, but if they are not ready to get sober, they are likely to go right back to using the moment they leave rehab.

Don’t Enable Them

Watching a loved one’s life unravel is difficult and you are most likely doing everything you can to help. But when it comes to addiction, there is a fine line between helping and enabling. Some common ways that family members enable their loved ones include: giving them money, paying their bills, lying for them, bailing them out of trouble, and excusing their behavior. Pay attention to your behavior and ask yourself if you are truly helping them or if you’re inadvertently enabling them to continue to use drugs and drink alcohol.

Don’t Give Up

You might become frustrated with your loved one if they refuse to get help or if they relapse, but don’t give up on them. The last thing someone struggling with addiction needs to hear is that you don’t believe they can change. If you give up on them, they are likely to give up on themselves as well. Remember, battling addiction is hard but not impossible, and having a strong support system can make all the difference.

How You Can Help

Educate Yourself About Addiction

If you have never been directly exposed to alcoholism or drug addiction, you may be misinformed about what addiction is, who it affects, and how it affects them. It is important that you do your own research so that you can better understand what your loved one is going through. The more informed you are, the more you will be able to help them. Some great resources to start with include the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Address the Issue

Know that ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. So, while confronting your loved one about their addiction can be intimidating, this an important conversation that you need to have sooner rather than later. Some ways to better prepare for this conversation include: speaking to a professional, finding the right time (when they are sober), and writing down what you want to say. During the conversation, try to stay calm, be open and honest, and let them know that you are there to help them get better.

Research Treatments

Your loved one might not be ready to accept your help just yet, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do for them. You can start by researching different addiction treatment centers and their offerings. Go online, request literature, or give them a call. Explore your options and determine what would be the best fit for your loved one. The more informed you are, the more prepared you will be for they are ready to get better.

Set Boundaries

In the chaos of addiction, setting boundaries ⎼ or lines that cannot be crossed ⎼ plays an important role in assuring your well-being and hopefully, encourages your loved one to seek help. Common boundaries include not allowing your loved one to drink or use around you, setting curfews, and refusing to bail them out of legal or financial trouble. It’s important that once you set a boundary, you follow through. If there are no consequences for not following the rules, then your addicted loved one will have no reason to change. While setting boundaries can be tough or even harsh at times, boundaries help protect you and teach your loved one become accountable for their own actions.

Practice Self-Care

When a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, the last thing on your mind is your own well-being. But addiction is a family disease, and whether you realize it or not, your loved one’s addiction is taking a toll on you too. Be sure to take some time to take care of yourself ⎼ exercise, eat healthy, enjoy some time outside, read a book, and do things you enjoy. Know that it’s ok for you to reach out for help, even if your loved one isn’t ready. Counseling or support groups like Nar-Anon can be great resources for support. It may seem selfish to do these things while your loved one struggles, but the truth is that you can’t help them unless you help yourself first. So, give yourself permission to reclaim your life. The happier and healthier you are, the more help you will be able to provide them.

If you or your loved one is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, we are here to help. Reach out to Mountainside by calling 888 833 4676.

Leave a Comment

Please be aware that whatever you enter into the "Name" and "Comment" fields below will be published and viewable by the public. Your e-mail address will not appear anyplace on our website. View our full Privacy Policy. Thank you!


Dallas Swatsell on July 25, 2020 6:18 AM

My boyfriend has been doing drugs. This person is my world literally my everything. I have confronted him about the drugs and he dont care. He says it's not always gonna be like this. I have tried to talk to him and ask him to get help. I dont know what to do anymore I love him but its just to much to handle. I don't want to watch his life go down the drain over a mistake he made. And i dont want it to tear our relationship apart. What should I do?


View 1 Reply

    A.S on August 15, 2020 5:04 PM

    You are not alone. My childrens father that I have been with for 15 years is going through this. Its a terrible feeling of despair when you want to save someone but realize you have no control over someone elses actions. Love yourself enough to know that your love can't save him, only he can do that. ♡


    View 1 Reply

      Stephanie O on September 3, 2020 7:37 AM

      My boyfriend and I were together for 4 years and recently I had to make the hardest decision of my life to split up with him. He's been a heroin addict for over half of his life. He's been to rehab 3 times and this most recent time he checked out early which he told me and I've heard it before in the past, he has the tools and he knows what he needs to do so that's why he decided it was okay for him to leave after 11 days. I understand where you're coming from. He's been my world and everything too and it's been devastating having to come to this realization that no matter what I do and how hard I try to convince him he needs help and he needs to stick with it, if he doesn't truly want it himself, then it's out of my hands. It's been a solid two years of him using on and off again. The first two years of our relationship were beautiful but even now, I found out he used a few times during those first two years and the last two years, his personality had changed or things felt off and it wasn't making sense to me since it felt like we had a really solid relationship until I found out he was using and it was really bad how much he had been using. I know relapse is part of recovery but over the last few months, it's happened a couple times again and it just felt like I couldn't keep doing this. I was always the one to find the drugs and he always hid it from me. After being with someone for that length of time though, you start to see that they have a tell when they're acting differently so a few weeks ago, I told him that we needed to break up in which he told me that he thought I didn't want to be with him anymore. Nope, that was never the case. I want to marry this guy and have a family with him. I love him so much but it just doesn't seem like he's ever really had any consequences in his life when he uses so I'm not sure if it's ever going to change. Also, his parents have been enabling him for years but giving him money, constantly helping him with things that as a grown man in his early 30s - he should be handling on his own so if that's how it has been for him, what's his reason to change? I keep hoping that maybe my leaving would be his reason to change since we've both wanted a future together but after being heartbroken time after time, I really don't know anymore and have run out of things to do. I've tried learning much about addiction, gone to a meeting with him, did some couples therapy, in therapy myself....and yet now, he won't go to therapy, he's now decided to not go to meetings and thinks that it's not realistic to think he should have to live a life of sobriety. That was not an easy thing to learn/hear. I honestly didn't know what to do anymore and like a lot of people say and oh gosh what a hard lesson it has been to learn, there is literally nothing we can do except for be supportive and loving. They have to be the ones to do the work and want the sobriety for themselves. I hope one day something will click for him but for now, I just need to take care of me since I feel like I have been so drained from all of this. Remember to take care of yourself. I lost myself during our time together and now I'm trying to find myself again. Take care. ♡


      View 1 Reply

        Anthony on September 4, 2020 11:33 AM

        Thank you for sharing your experience, Stephanie. I'm so sorry to hear about your struggles, it's never easy to see someone you love struggle for so long. If you need a safe space to be around people who understand what you have gone through, please join our free Virtual Support Group for Friends & Family Wednesdays at 6:30 PM. You can join the conversation/share your story, ask our caring Mountainside staff any questions you may have, or just listen in. Sometimes, it just helps to know we aren't alone, please feel free to join here . - Anthony


Murfreesboro Recovery Center on July 24, 2020 10:54 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this great information with us. Your article is great inspirational for me. Keep sharing such great and amazing work. Rehabilitation centers have been around for decades, helping people recover from alcohol and drug addiction.


Anonymous on July 17, 2020 4:21 PM

I've been with my partner for about 2 1/2 years. I have come to realize he has a problem with coke. He himself admits he does when I confronted him about it. What used to be a recreational, time to time thing when he was drinking has changed. He lies about doing but I know when he does it because the signs of his behavior are so clear. I asked him not to lie about and he promises he won't but he seems to not be able to follow through.

Even though he knows he has a problem, he says he doesn't know what to do about it. He has gone to therapy and it doesn't seem to be working. He complains saying it's too expensive, yet he spends money on everything else - it makes me feel like he doesn't really want to go or get help.

He has ended up in the hospital after taking too much once, which has pretty much scared me shitless... He has called 911 again after that incident which he denies was related to coke but ... it was.

I would love to be supportive. I would love to help him get help, but I feel very defeated. The stress and anxiety I get from this is becoming a little too much for me and at this point I'm at a loss of what I can do.


View 1 Reply

    Nidia on July 31, 2020 7:04 AM

    I recently joined CODA, codependents anonymous. I’m learning a lot about myself and I can see slowly but clearly that it’s not my job to fix my husband. I’ve put myself through a lot trying to “help” and “fix”. He doesn’t see he has a problem, and has told me to my face that he doesn’t want to stop. I’ll I have power over are my actions, my boundaries and it’s very sad but I feel pushed to moving on. It’s a very scary thought to leave and think about our young son. The trust has been broken a few times. I’m tired, I feel I need to let him experience his own consequences and and try to find sanity for myself.

    I strongly recommend CODA it is helping me to stay stronger, let go of shame, and trust a higher self, universe, source, God (what ever you believe in) to take the load off of my shoulders to trust that there’s a higher plan for my life and to help me take care of myself. I feel like I’m finding more and more lost pieces of myself in the process. I’m putting my husband in the hands of God, source, universe to take care of him and guide him.


Maria Jeffares on July 16, 2020 3:07 AM

I have a son that is addicted to meth and he doesn't want any help or think he needs help; he is unapologetic about what he does and he lost any care in the world. My heart is breaking in pieces. I'm in pain, I tried everything I could possibly do but without him wanting help, no place would take him for treatment. I can't bear this pain, I already went thru this with my ex. How can I find relief to this pain?


View 1 Reply

    Marlon Hester on November 12, 2020 5:45 AM

    I'm so sorry to hear that you are going through this. You and your son are in my prayers.


Lyla Peterson on July 13, 2020 2:22 PM

I like the idea of exploring potential treatment options for your loved one. My sister has been struggling with alcoholism for the past year or so, and she really needs help. I will try to encourage her to get treatment and research some good choices in the area.