Helping Addicted family member: no easy task

Having a family member who is addicted to any substance does not only affect the addicted person but the whole family. In most cases, helping addicted family member is not an option. There is resentment to the addicted person and anger and fear affect the rest of the family as the addiction progresses.

Research backed up by my family experience points that addiction is more than poor choices, it’s a disease that is mostly linked to genes and family history.

When my brother started showing signs of addiction, I couldn’t understand how he could be so selfish. The pain he brought to my parents, myself and my siblings, the fear when his disease progressed and he would come home screaming when drunk. The frustration was even worse the following day when he behaved like nothing happened and no one talked about it anymore

The Stigma:

The Stigma around addiction is universal. In my family, what made it difficult is that for one, it was normalized in the immediate and extended family. It was so rampant among my relatives that it wasn’t possible to see a possible recovery once a person takes that route. I couldn’t understand how anyone could make a choice to overindulge in alcohol or drugs knowing the possible outcome. I was very judgmental; I was not in a position to help addicted family member in what I considered a problem of their own making, not to mention the shame it brought us as a family.

What made it possible to help addicted family member.

As I grew up, I was full of anger for what my addicted family member was taking us through day in day out. But I also began sympathizing with my parents.

This made me start researching causes of addiction and I learn that addiction is a disease and not just a bad or intentional choice. No one start taking alcohol knowing that they will be an addict. Doing research was not enough, I was captivated by the hope that a cure was possible in spite of how much time had passed from the time the addiction started. More than twenty years had passed, but I was not giving up hope. Partly out of guilt that I hadn’t tried to help and also out of compassion.

I learn about all the recovery options that were available. Counseling centers and programs were beginning to be available in our area. The difficulty was that the only person who could really make the decision to get help is the addicted person. I had learn that a decision forced in most cases is worse than no decision at all.

My attempt to help the addicted family member was looking like an  impossible decision. I enrolled in a certificate program at Cal state east bay with the hope of learning how to counsel and influence my brother to make the decision to enter a program. There are also available courses that you can take internationally if you are not in the US.

I was determined and an opportunity presented itself that lead to my brother choosing to go into a rehab program. I was not ready with a place where he would go. I didn’t expect that choice after many years of hitting a wall.

With all networks and help from friends, we were able to identify a place. We discussed with him the place, went through the costs and the expectation. He was in the program within two days of agreeing to go in.

To help loved one addiction is excruciatingly painful, it’s impossible to do it alone. With the right help, it is very achievable. This is a difficult task, in most cases it is much easier to ignore the addiction and just wish it away. This will not go away!

Not helping will only make it harder for the family and the addicted family member. If at all possible, getting help as soon as possible before further progression is the best option.

If you have any questions or any comment, feel free to leave them below.

All the best,



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One Comment

  1. When someone in the family needs help, the response from the family shows if it a real family or just people living together. I hope your brother gets better. Take care.

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