The Tara Treatment Center Blog

Addiction: Supporting Families with Addicted Loved Ones

Things Every Family in Addiction Recovery Should Know

Addiction recovery is a process for the whole family, yet many feel that the family often goes unsupported.  What should the family know?

Below we’ve asked experts with personal or professional experience in the field.

Addiction in Families

PAL (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones) Facilitator Kathy Baker-Heckard speaks on the topic of addiction:

“The first time the family feels isolated is when they come to the realization their loved one is an addict.  We keep it to ourselves hoping we can take care of the problem behind closed doors and nobody will ever find out.  All the while, getting ‘sick’ ourselves.  Obsessing over our loved ones addiction…and wanting to control it & to fix it.  
The second time we feel isolated is when your other family members, neighbors and friends find out.  Due to the stigma attached to addiction and mental health issues, the family is then judged. “Why didn’t you do a better job raising your kid?”  and other similar questions.

The third time we feel isolated is when we finally get our loved one into treatment – sometimes after months or years of begging/pleading with them to go.  We had no idea what to do the first time our son went in to treatment.  We were told ‘Let us do our job.’

The biggest piece of advice I’d give to any family member would be: Get some help for yourself!  I cannot stress that enough.  Get in to a support group like PAL, Naranon or Alanon.” 



Ashley English Family Addiction

Ashley English is the CEO of the Willow Center, specializing in treatment and recovery the Brownsburg Area.  Ashley has the following tips for families in need of support.

Families in Early Recovery Should:

1.  Find their own support group/system.

2.  Set clear boundaries with their loved one.

3.  Get in their own therapy and maintain proper self-care.

4.  Educate themselves on addiction as a chronic illness which has set backs at times.

5.  Re-think the idea of ‘expectations’ with your loved one.

6.  Don’t ‘own’ your loved ones’ successes or failures.  Separate their stuff from yours. 

7.  Help break the stigma and make it ‘OK’ to talk about with family members outside of the immediate family. 

8.  Be careful of the ‘pink cloud’:  the idea that a loved one is cured now that they are in addiction treatment.


SAMHSA’s Approaches to Talking to Loved Ones about Addiction


  • Ask sensitive questions. “How do you feel about your life these days? I’ve noticed you’re drinking more than usual.”
  • Use the pronouns “I” or “we.” “I feel frustrated and sad when I can’t talk to you after you’ve been drinking.”
  • Have a clear treatment plan ready. “We’ve found a good rehab program close to home; we want you to get outside help.”
  • Stay calm and compassionate. “I know this is hard. I’m here for you.”
  • Seek support from others. “Your brothers and sisters are here for you too, and we’ve found a counselor who can help all of us.”


  • Make angry accusations. “You never spend any time with the kids anymore; you’re too busy getting high.”
  • Use the pronoun “you.” “You don’t listen to me when you’re drunk!”
  • Make bargains that allow substance use to continue. “If you cut off your drinking by 7 p.m., I’ll give you one more chance.”
  • Act judgmental or outraged. “You’re being weak and inconsiderate; using meth is a crime, you could stop if you really wanted to!”
  • Try to tackle the problem alone. “I can’t handle this by myself. You and your drugs are too much for me to deal with.”

As Diane Buxton explains, “It’s a family disease, isn’t it[See Diane’s personal story here] There should ALWAYS be more for the family.  In my experience, the key has been getting active in the community, as in groups like PAL.