The family functions as a unit. It is interconnected; with a series of different parts depending on and supporting each other. According to Catherine Ross and colleagues, it is a type of ecosystem in which overall health relies on each individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Sometimes the well-being of an individual is compromised by stress, pressure, or anxiety, and a method of coping is needed. When the individual becomes reliant on one method, a dependency can be formed such as with drug and alcohol addiction.

With this general model of family and health in mind, it becomes necessary to understand how to approach a member with an addiction. Although it is a personal experience, it is recommended to emphasize the ‘we’ instead of the ‘I’. For example one could say, ’we are suffering an illness’ instead of ‘I am suffering an illness’ (Rojas). The care that one can receive from their family is an important source of help and support. Talking about an issue such as alcohol and drug addiction with the abuser can be extremely difficult, and it could be tempting to avoid but it is actually better to confront the issues.

By expressing concerns or frustrations, open communication can be established. The best place to have this conversation is in a quiet environment free of distractions. You should express your worries openly, and create a caring and supportive atmosphere. Instead of outrightly pointing out that the substance abuser consumes too many drugs or too much alcohol, it would be more beneficial to bring up instances in which the behavior of the abuser worried you. Explain these instances and how they might indicate a problem that needs attention. Options for getting help include treatment programs, counseling, and support groups. Explaining these options and learning about them together can encourage the abuser to decide on a preferred method.

Try to avoid conflicts with the abuser. If the abuser refuses to admit that they have a problem or insists that there is no reason to be concerned, it is necessary to restate how you feel. Placing blame or guilt on the abuser should be avoided. Accusatory statements, usually ’you’ statements, should not be used. Examples of this include ‘you need to stop drinking so much’ or ‘you are acting irresponsibly’. Instead, ‘I’ support statements should be used. For example, “I feel worried about  . . . (specific behavior)” or “When you (specific behavior), I feel”. The best thing to do is to keep offering support and let the abuser know that you care about their well-being. If even after talking to them, you are still worried about the abuser’s safety and well-being, try to seek assistance from a medical professional and discuss your concerns with them.

The recovery process can be long, and having patience is essential. The abuser has to decide that THEY want to stop using drugs or alcohol before the treatment process can begin. Once the treatment begins, the patient will still need care and support throughout the entire process. Sometimes there are relapses with the addiction, but you can learn from these events and stay supportive and focused on the recovery process. An open and caring environment between the patient and their family should be maintained. Keep in mind that it can take time. You might see certain common stages of recovery such as intake, detoxification, rehabilitation, and ongoing recovery (Watkins). Withdrawals may occur during detox, and medication can be required. During rehab the patient identifies the reasons behind their addiction, and usually goes through either individual, group, or family therapy.

The recovery process begins after rehab. It can be a lifelong process; some patients find it easier to live free of drugs or alcohol and some find it hard. The important thing to remember is that the family is a unit; providing nurture and support for each other is essential for each individual’s well-being. By sharing any concerns with the abuser, the family is creating an open and supportive environment for the abuser to feel safe in. With this strong core, the substance abuser and the family can overcome the addiction together.


Rojas, Mariano. “Suffering Ailments and Addiction Problems in the Family.” Springer. Springer                Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015, 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.

Ross, Catherine E., John Mirowsky, and Karen Goldsteen. “The Impact of the Family on Health:   The Decade in Review.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 52.4 (1990): 1059. JSTOR                        [JSTOR]. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.

Watkins, Meredith. “The Addiction Rehab Process.” The Addiction Rehab Process.                2016, n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.