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Five Ways to Cope with a Family Member’s Substance Use

Oct 6, 2020

Self-care is an essential part of responding to substance use disorders in the family, yet it’s something that often gets neglected. As the demands of managing a family member with an SUD increase, it’s not uncommon to focus all of our energy on the crisis itself—much to your own detriment. Today, let’s talk about how to create balance and better protect yourself in the midst of a loved one’s drug or alcohol addiction.

The demands of having a loved one with a substance use disorder can often lead to a lack of self-care for family members. Protecting your own physical and mental health can come from getting regular sleep and exercise, and it’s also valuable to seek family and private therapy opportunities as well as a peer group to openly share how a close relative’s SUD has impacted your life and learn skills for coping with it. Educating yourself on addiction, in general, and on the specific substance used can also be advantageous by helping you create a more informed response to your loved one’s substance use.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

Educate yourself on both addiction and the specific SUD.

Not every substance has the same impact on a user so it’s helpful to learn about what your family member’s specific substance is doing to them. This kind of education can encompass what the drug does to the brain and body and what kind of side effects it produces. Resources aren’t limited to information sites; you can watch a documentary or read a novel and get insight into addiction in a narrative form.

Seek out family and private therapy opportunities.

While therapy is a fundamental aspect of drug and alcohol treatment, it’s beneficial as well for family members of people with substance use disorders. Family therapy provides an opportunity for you to speak openly about the impact of a loved one’s SUD on you and those around you. It helps keep the connection with a person in treatment active, especially at a time when the consequences of their actions may have created stress and harm to the family. In addition to these group sessions, private counseling can be beneficial for anyone whose own mental health is routinely at risk due to a loved one’s substance use. Private therapy can provide both support and the skills you need to manage your own depression or anxiety during, before, and after a family member’s inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Find or create a peer group.

Connecting with people who have had similar experiences is another important form of support. In the Covid era, meeting in person may be more limited, but peer groups do exist virtually everywhere and can be found online. This resource can be a helpful way to create valuable connections with people who face many of the same challenges you do, and the takeaways can include hearing ways to talk to your loved one about treatment, feeling hopeful about the potential for recovery, managing your own expectations better, and getting reminders to take care of yourself throughout the recovery process.

Prioritize sleep and exercise routines.

Maintaining physical and mental health are highly necessary forms of self-care when you have a close relative with a substance use disorder. Your ability to function in a healthy way, while having a loved one in crisis, demands you remain well-rested to avoid the harm created by stress, anger, exhaustion, and other factors, and protecting your sleep routine of a specific bedtime and specific waking time can help. Regular exercise is another way to ensure you’re caring for your physical and mental health. Find the routine that fits into your schedule and reduces stress at optimum times, whether it’s first thing in the morning or one of your evening activities.  

Devote time to your own interests.

Spending time on yourself may seem self-indulgent when you have a close relative living with an SUD, but the time you take for your own interests is part of creating balance in your life. These activities should feel like a mental break from the stress associated with your family member’s substance use or time in treatment, and you can create a list of options for various environments. At home, you may enjoy listening to music or baking your favorite dessert, while away from home you might spend time taking photos or volunteering at your favorite non-profit organization.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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