Family Members & Loved Ones

 Below are a few Do's & Don'ts of Coping with Addiction in a Family Member or Loved One.

This information is from:  Family Program Workbook

St. Vincent's Westchester Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services

 DO the following:

  • Try to learn the facts about drug addiction.
  • Recognize addiction for what it is- a disease from which people can and do recover
  • Practice detachment- do not allow yourself to become obsessed with your family member. There are times when you must let the addict experience the consequences of their drug use.
  • Set realistic limits and expectations.  You cannot control the addict.  It has to be their choice if their recovery is to be maintained.
  • Practice "tough love"- Decide what you will accept and what you will not accept from the addict.  Set realistic limits and make realistic demands.
  • Attend organized meetings (NA or Al-anon) to talk with other people dealing with addicts and their experiences with both addiction and recoveries.
  • Take life a day at a time.  It is impossible to predict what will happen with an addict.  There could be relapses or success at the last moment when everyone was ready to give up. 
  • Take a good look at yourself, your character, your abilities, and your needs.
  • Remember the needs of other family members, especially children.  Explain the illness of addiction in terms they can understand.  Learn how to have a good time with the family regardless of whether or not the addicted family member participates.
  • If you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, helpless and hopeless, seek out a mental health professional.
For the complete, in-depth list download the complete handout from
(link at top of page)

 DON'T do the following:

  • Don't make threats you don't intend to carry out.  This weakens your limits.
  • Never argue with an intoxicated person. Nothing can be gained and you could be placing yourself in danger.  Alcoholics and addicts like to provoke fights because it distracts everybody from their habits.  Wait until they are sober.
  • Avoid shame, ridicule, or scolding.  
  • Don't accept an addict's excuses.
  • Don't lie to the addict about what the drinking and drugging is doing to the family.  Be calm and straight-forward but honest.
  • Try not to give the impression that you are the enemy.  The disease of addiction is the enemy.
  • Don't feel guilty if you have to call the police to restore order in your home. You are protecting the family and the addict themselves.  Remember the addict's behavior has resulted in the call for help, not your behavior.
  • Don't cover up or make excuses for the addict.
  • Don't try to get the addict to stay sober for you.  Ploys such as "if you loved me, you would stop" usually won't work. They have to do it for themselves. 
  • Don't encourage the addict to go with you to social situations in which alcohol and drug use will go on.  Most addicts cannot cope in these social situations in the beginning of recovery.
  • Try not to be impatient for recovery to take place.  Recovery takes a long time for significant improvements.  Look for progress and not perfection.
For the complete, in-depth list download the complete handout from
(link at top of page)