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Rehabs South Africa - Living with addiction in the family

From an outsider’s point of view, it may seem as if addiction only affects the person who is addicted. However, an addiction destroys a family just as much as it destroys the person addicted.

What people don’t see, is how mentally and emotionally exhausting it is to live with an addict.

Living with addiction in the family

Members of the family are often torn between trying to help their addicted loved one and how to avoid being used by the addicted love one.

Below are some supportive suggestions that have been used by professionals when working with addicts and their families. We hope they can help you.

Ways you can help an addict


  • Try to learn more about addiction, treatment and recovery. By educating yourself and becoming more informed, you will be able understand the processes your loved one is going though.
  • Avoid confrontations such as name calling and accusations. Struggling with addiction is challenging for both parties.
  • Encourage sobriety by providing a sober, safe environment.
  • Encourage your addicted loved one to go to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings
  • Make peace with the fact that your life has changed. Now is the time for both yourself and loved one to create a new life, one where there is more honesty and trust.
  • Create an environment where your loved one and yourself feel comfortable enough to have fun, free from substances. People addicted to substances often use drugs or alcohol to relax, have fun or escape. By trying to create a fun but sober environment, you will be helping your loved one find alternative ways to enjoy their life.
  • DO NOT ENABLE. Refrain from making excuses for your loved one.
  • In general, people are more likely to change their behaviour if they feel the consequences of their actions. Therefore, it’s important not to shield your addicted loved one from the consequences of their actions.
  • Additionally, it’s important to set boundaries that your whole family agrees on. The aim of this exercise is to improve the health of your family as a whole. Avoid using these boundaries to punish.
  • In the early stages, instead of giving your loved one money, rather buy them goods or pay for services yourself. This will remove the chances of them using it for alcohol or drugs.
  • Always remember that your loved one has the same potential to succeed as they did before their addiction.


Ways you can help yourself


  • Remember to take care of yourself, trying to operate on a day-to-day basis while being exhausted will only make things worse. Take time to recover and relax.
  • Always remember that you cannot control another person’s choices and decisions. Self-blame and fear of lack of control will only deplete your energy levels more.
  • Do not do things for your loved one, the best approach is to set an example of self-care, determination and balance.
  • Refrain from becoming the ‘caretaker’ for your addicted loved one. It’s important to understand that there is only so much you can do for them.
  • There is no shame in seeking support and help for yourself. Step Away holds Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) meetings on a weekly basis for families of addicts.
  • Do not attempt to argue or discuss things with your loved one when they are under the influence.
  • It may difficult but try not to be negative about your loved one. Encouragement and love will help them move away from their feelings of guilt and self-loathing.
  • Remember the 3 C’s of addiction. You can’t CONTROL their addiction. You didn’t CAUSE their addiction. You won’t CURE their addiction.


Step Away Substance Abuse Treatment South Africa

Families need to understand their role in their addicted loved one’s addiction and their recovery process.

Addiction often isolates people, leaving them open to negative influence and emotion. Together, with the support and love of their family, addicts are able to overcome their disease.

For more information about how we can help you, please contact us.

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