How to Support a Family Member With a Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction can be devastating to those who suffer from it. Physically, mentally, emotionally and socially – addiction has consequences on every aspect of an individual’s life. The Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC) describes addiction in two ways:

  • As a psychological dependency on a substance, where the user feels as though they need it to function socially, and;
  • As a physiological dependence, where the user experiences withdrawal symptoms and health problems due to intake.

Unfortunately, it isn’t only the person with the addiction that suffers. Their loved ones also feel the devastation and often struggle to cope with the disease.

If a family member is suffering from addiction, you may relate to the negative feelings of guilt, blame, anger or shame directed both at yourself and towards your loved one. You may also be experiencing an extreme sense of loss. While the emotions you are feeling are real and often very painful, it’s important to remain mindful that your loved one requires compassion and support to overcome their addiction.

Here are three ways you can support their journey towards recovery and take care of your own wellbeing at the same time:

1) Learn about substance abuse and addiction

As a family member, you have likely experienced the repercussions of addiction firsthand. But, do you fully understand the addiction, its cause, and its symptoms? Educating yourself will not only help you to understand what your loved one is experiencing. But will also help you to communicate with a more guided, compassionate response.

In Calgary, there are several centres that provide family members with the proper resources to educate themselves on addiction and seek support. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) offers a Family Support program with drop-in groups for individuals to connect with others who have substance abuse issues in their families. Alternatively, Alberta Health Services’ Health Link provides online resources about addiction and offers a 24/7 phone line to speak with trained nurses about health issues, like addiction.

2) Take care of your own mental health and wellbeing

Taking care of a family member who suffers from addiction can be physically and mentally draining. To be able to provide them with the best care, you must take care of your own wellbeing first. Without proper self-care, it’s possible that you could develop your own mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

If you are experiencing ongoing stress because of a loved one’s addiction, there are several places in Calgary you can visit to help with stress release. Read our blog on places to visit in Calgary to reduce stress.

If the issue is more severe and you feel yourself experiencing chronic stress, depression or anxiety, seeking help through counselling or therapy could be beneficial for you. Counselling can help you to develop coping mechanisms to navigate the challenges of addiction, allowing you to maintain your mental health so that you can help your loved one with theirs.

3) Integrate family counselling and therapy

If your loved one is battling a substance abuse problem, they could benefit from a treatment program that integrates family counselling and therapy. If the individual is willing to participate, this can be a healthy way to work together as a family to create a recovery path. That may include detox, rehabilitation, a 12-step program and other types of physical and mental therapy.

Furthermore, a trained therapist can guide your family through healthy discussion. Speaking with a professional can help you to develop positive behaviours to take care of your own mental health and the health of the family as a whole.


Whether you are struggling with substance abuse or you have a loved one battling addiction, the path to physical and emotional recovery starts here. If you’re ready to take the first step, book a free consultation with one of the trained therapists at our Calgary clinic today. Together, we can start your family on a journey towards healing and recovery with addiction counselling.