Drug and alcohol addiction may seem like distant, alien realities until either condition starts to affect someone you love. By then, the experience may seem not only painfully real but like a living nightmare. Your friend, family member, or partner will seem totally different from how you used to know them. Moreover, the addiction will have taken such a toll on your personal relationship, finances, and emotional wellbeing that you can’t see a way out.

But a powerful initiative that you can take on for yourself is to be a source of support for your loved one. Your care, understanding, and optimism will count for a lot in their journey towards healing. Moreover, in the long run, these will help you rebuild your personal, emotional, social, and spiritual lives. With the pillars in place, both you and your loved one have a chance at a better life despite the addiction. 

Caring for someone who is struggling with addiction is by no means an easy process. But there are definitely some things that you can do to make a difference. Here are the seven best ways to support them—thus giving them a fighting chance at a healthy life free of drug or alcohol abuse. 

Rethink What you Know about Alcohol and Drug Addiction 

Even the most compassionate approaches to drug and alcohol addiction may be based on harmful myths or assumptions. All of us have been conditioned by the media and prevailing social beliefs to think certain things about addiction. It does take some effort to identify these myths and to shape our judgment of our loved ones to be less harsh, impulsive, or prejudiced. Some examples of myths that persist about drug and alcohol addiction are:

    • That drug or alcohol addiction only greatly affects people of certain demographics, ages, genders, or social classes
      One of the most difficult realities to accept is that addiction can happen to anyone, and for different reasons. Perhaps it will help you come to terms with the fact that it happened to your loved one.


    • That drug and alcohol addiction are purposeful character flaws, and that one can easily “choose” to be addicted The suffering and distress that come with alcohol and drug addiction are not things that any person would voluntarily choose. A number of behaviors you see in your loved one when they are at the point of addiction are not voluntary, but compulsive. Addiction is not a choice, but a disease that affects the brain. Precisely one of the things that you and your loved one should work towards is restoring their power of choice.


    • That treatment for addiction is only effective for those who “want” it enough.
      A person dealing with drug or alcohol addiction could want recovery more than anything else in the world, but, that doesn’t mean that they won’t have difficulty getting there. There are a lot of factors behind successful treatment for drug or alcohol addiction—and this is information that you should know for yourself.


  • That there’s one cut-and-dried solution for drug and alcohol addiction.There’s a different story behind every incidence of drug and alcohol abuse. Consequently, there’s no single “magic bullet” or blanket solution to treating addiction. You will have to find out what works for the people involved, and how recovery can be sustained given unique individual circumstances.

It would be a good idea to consult an addiction information service to broaden your understanding of addiction. Trained professionals can tell you everything you need to know about how addiction happens, plus how different substances affect the users. Knowledge is crucial in the battle against addiction, and you will want to be both informed and clear-headed in your treatment of your loved one. 

Examine the Underlying Problems behind your Loved One’s Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Another thing you should remember is that neither alcohol addiction nor drug addiction is things that happen at random. Neither is an isolated issue, and substance abuse is likely to be related to another problem that’s invisible to everyone but the user. Issues at work, issues with finances, or strain in interpersonal relationships may have been their turning point from occasional use to substance abuse. 

Thus, when caring for your loved one, remember to keep all of these other issues in mind. A complete recovery involves more than detoxification for a particular substance, but also the healing of other deep-seated wounds. Be there for your loved one in the capacity that you can afford. Seek professional help, such as that of a doctor or trained counselor, when needed. 

Learn What Will Happen in your Loved One’s Rehabilitation Program

The rehabilitation process does not look the same for everybody. There are inpatient programs, outpatient programs, and programs that combine the two. Experts will assess a patient for what exactly they need and implement the treatment regimen that they see fit. 

Inpatient programs in dedicated rehabilitation centers usually last 30, 60, or 90 days. They begin with a thorough medical and psychological examination of the patient. Then, the patient will undergo detoxification, where their withdrawal symptoms will be managed in a safe and controlled environment. 

After detox, your loved one will take part in therapy that’s either on the individual or the community level. Then, they will be assisted in their transition from rehab to a normal and sober life. These are the things that you can expect to encounter together, and hopefully, they are things that you can prepare yourself for emotionally. 

Strive to Influence, and NOT to Control

Dealing with addiction can be very taxing for the caregiver as well as the person struggling with it. There may be several times that you, as the former, will be tempted to take a forceful approach because nothing else seems to be working. But being forceful, blaming them, getting angry at them, or lying to them in any way could incite feelings of guilt, embarrassment, frustration, and anger. There’s a chance that these feelings will lead them back to the addictive substances—and in addition, to feelings of resentment for you. 

It will make a world of difference for you to reorient your actions from a place of influence instead of a place of force. Acknowledge that you cannot force your loved one out of their condition, but that you can influence them for the better. This is one of the ways that you can help them win back their agency from dangerous substances.  

Set Healthy Boundaries for your Loved One to Follow

But this isn’t to say that you should condone all behaviors that have a destructive effect on you, your family members, and your common friends. This is why it’s important for you to have boundaries in place. Boundaries can serve as standards for good behavior, responsibility, and accountability for one’s actions. They aren’t meant to close off your loved one who’s fighting with their addiction. Rather, they can establish patterns where your loved one can exercise their agency once more. 

You can set the following healthy boundaries with your loved one while they are on their journey to sobriety:

  • Take a firm stand against violent behavior, whether physical or verbal. 
  • Tell your loved one that you intend to help them, but it won’t be through acts like lying or covering for them.
  • State the consequences for when they act against your shared values, such as them being late to a family gathering or damaging your property. 

Don’t Think of Relapse as a Sign of Failure

Oftentimes, people judge the success of drug or alcohol rehab treatment on just one stay in the inpatient facility. If someone dealing with addiction relapses and returns to substance abuse, there’s a tendency to think that rehab ultimately failed them. 

But recovery from something as serious as drug or alcohol addiction is rarely a linear, one-off kind of experience. If your loved one relapses even after completing treatment, you shouldn’t think of them as a hopeless case or of rehab as totally ineffective. With practice on their part, and with support on yours, they will be able to totally re-negotiate their life without drugs or alcohol. 

Be an Advocate to your Loved One Before, During, and After Treatment

Through it, all, believe in the person that your loved one is, and who they could eventually become post-treatment. Maintain trust and open communication with them. They might see you as a confidant, a role model, and someone who can advocate for their improvement. You are doing valuable work for them, for yourself, and for your family by proving them right. 

See if you can join your loved one in post-recovery activities like sports, community outreach, job hunting, church services, and the like. Soon, they will be back up on their feet and ready to thank you by paying it forward. 

Again, supporting a loved one through drug or alcohol addiction won’t be easy. But it will be worth it for the chance to see them healthy, functional, and at their personal best again. 

Neither of you is alone in fighting this difficult fight. Draw strength from those who’ve battled drug and alcohol addiction—and who’s ultimately won a better life for themselves. Here’s to wishing that you achieve a full and holistic recovery together!