Having a family member or friend with a drug or alcohol problem is hard. You love them, but more often than not you are not sure what to do, or how best to support them. At Help Me Stop, we understand these issues. We provide professional support and advice for friends and families because we know that it improves outcomes.
The best advice we can give anyone is to call a professional to discuss your situation. Help Me Stop offers a free telephone consultation for family members, friends and colleagues who are concerned about someone’s drinking or drug-taking. Contact us here in confidence.
Family and Friends programme
There will be an educational element to the family programme. The topics will be eclectic but will cover subjects such as:
1 Nature of Addiction
What is problematic use? What is addiction?
2 Genuine Recovery
What does genuine recovery look like and how to support someone in recovery.
Co-dependency – What is it and why might it be present in family relationships?
4 Family Dynamics
Family dynamics and communication building including the roles people play in the family, i.e. caretaker, enabler, rescuer.
The other part of the session is group therapy. Essentially, this will be the family members opportunity talk about their experiences, fears and concerns. It will provide an opportunity for them to seek mutual support, identify with others in a similar situation, and gain a deeper understand of their role in the family. It will also enable them to find solutions to the issues you are facing.
If you, or someone you know, is looking for addiction treatment, you can learn more about our admission process. We also have a cost breakdown of our services. Contact us to find out more about everything we can offer to families and friends of our treatment clients.
There are some general pieces of advice for relatives or friends of people with an addiction, included below.
What does not work
Pleading, begging, bribing, reprimanding and delivering ultimatums won’t work. Your relative or friend is trapped in their cycle and has lost the ability to care about themselves. All they want is their next drink or drug fix. That is not to say they don’t care about you or your relationship but addiction is clouding their judgement.
What does work
Keeping conversations generalised and open-ended rather than accusatory and attributing blame or putting them on a guilt trip.
If the conversation gets heated, walk away rather than digging your heels in and arguing.
Do not give solutions when you haven’t been asked.
Change your approach – if you keep doing things the same way the outcomes will also be the same.
Contact someone like Help Me Stop for professional help and advice.
- Read our 10 FAQs for parents or our 10 FAQs for partners of people with an addiction.
One of the most important things to do with someone struggling with drugs or alcohol is empathise. This can be hard but often it’s the best way to make a connection with someone who’s struggling.
People always want to make decisions for themselves, so instead of trying to force decisions on them, an empathetic approach can help them come to the right conclusion themselves.
Another important step is to set boundaries. Being empathic doesn’t mean you have to roll over and accept your friend or relative’s behaviour, nor does it mean you have to enable their continued addiction. Setting boundaries is the key to creating strong relationships.
Some of the boundaries you might want to set are:
No drug use at home and/or drunkenness around me and the children (if there are any): Let them know what substances and behaviour are acceptable and unacceptable in the home and when they are out with you and your children. Make sure they understand the consequences of violating those boundaries. Will you force them to find somewhere else to stay if they break this boundary or will you leave yourself? You must follow through with any consequences you have set out.
No financial bailouts: By setting the boundary to no longer giving financial support, you’re focusing on your own well-being and mental health. Remember, setting boundaries won’t cure the alcohol and drug use – but it will protect you and your family. You may need to put tighter controls on any joint accounts or set up your own separate account to protect your money and pay the bills from.
No lies, excuses or cover-ups: Setting a clear boundary that you will not lie, excuse or cover up the consequences of their drug and alcohol use sends a message about their personal responsibility. If they are hungover or “strung out” and aren’t going to work then they will have to phone in themselves. If they miss a family occasion or other form of gathering due to their drug or alcohol use then they will have to provide their own reasons for not attending. They need to know that, if you’re asked where they are, you will not lie on their behalf.
The final piece of advice is to research your treatment options and get professional help. When your friend or relative eventually has the light bulb moment and decides they need help, the window of opportunity can be very short. Recovery is not the same for every person, so knowing the treatment options and finding what’s best for them is an important factor when deciding on treatment. Once the options are laid out help them choose the one that works for them and get professional help.
Our family programme is a key feature of our services and something we actively promote our clients families accessing. For we recognise those with a family member struggling with harmful drinking or drug use life can be extremely difficult. For those families that do not have their loved ones in treatment with us, the following provides a list of the main organisations in the UK providing support for families.
Adfam is the national charity working to improve life for families affected by drugs and alcohol. It aims to empower family members and carers, support frontline workers and influence decision-makers to prevent alcohol and drugs from destroying families. Using compassion and evidence, the charity informs, supports and empowers both people affected by a loved one’s substance use and the workers who support them.
Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking, regardless of whether that person is still drinking or not. The organisation is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experiences to solve their common problems. It has over 800 support groups in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
020 7403 0888
Bottled Up offers information and advice for family members living with someone who is alcohol dependent. The two founders of the organisation are a therapist and a psychologist who have direct experience of alcoholism.
Carers UK provides advice, information and support for carers. They also have an online community of carers and are available to Carers UK members 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
0808 808 7777 (Mondays to Tuesdays, 10am-4pm)
The Children’s Society
The Children Society’s Stars initiative provides a hub of information, guidance and resources on parental drug and alcohol use, and the impact it has on children and families. Through its work it promotes the voices of children and young people, as well as seeking to influence policy and practice.
0300 303 7000
DrugFam is a charity that provides support for families affected by alcohol or drug dependency. Through its support services, it aims to provide a lifeline of safe, caring and professional support to families, friends and carers who are struggling to cope with a loved one’s addiction to drugs or alcohol.
0300 888 3853
Family Lives is a charity with over three decades of experience helping parents to deal with the changes that are a constant part of family life. It aims to support the many people that play active roles in raising children to achieve the best relationship possible with their children, as well as supporting parenting professionals.
0808 800 2222
Grandparents Plus is the national charity which champions the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives – especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances. Its role involves advising and supporting grandparents and wider family members to ensure they have access to a holistic service, and offering them professional advice, information and casework support.
0300 123 7015
The Icarus Trust
The Icarus Trust offers support for families of people with addiction, including alcohol dependence. It provides a ‘Family and Friends’ service, whereby trained volunteers offer personal support and help signpost to appropriate professionals who can provide specialist help.
Nacoa is a helpline charity providing information, advice and support for everyone affected by their parent’s drinking, including adults.
0800 358 3456
You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support. As well as offering advice and relationship counselling for couples, it also provides advice for parents and other family members to help families deal with difficult times. The charity has a network of Relate Centres across the UK and a group of licensed local counsellors that provide face-to-face counselling and support.
0300 100 1234
Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs
Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs exists to support those affected by the substance use of a loved one. It facilitates a Scotland-wide network of family support groups and runs a helpline service.
08080 10 10 11
If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, or know someone who does, please get in touch for free, confidential advice.