What to do if someone in your family has a problem

Phoenix House is committed to protecting and supporting you and your loved ones, and everyone affected by substance abuse and dependency. These steps are a helpful resource if you think someone you love has a problem.

What To Do

  1. Try to be calm and factually honest in speaking about their behavior and its day-to-day consequences.
  2. If you are reading and learning about substance abuse, or attending support groups, let your loved one know.
  3. Discuss the situation with someone you trust – a friend, colleague, someone from the clergy, a social worker, a counselor, or someone you know who has experienced drug and alcohol abuse personally.
  4. Establish and maintain a healthy atmosphere in the home and include the substance abuser in family life.
  5. Explain the nature of alcoholism and drug abuse as an illness to the children in the family.
  6. Encourage new interests and participate in leisure time activities that the person enjoys.
  7. Encourage them to see old friends.
  8. Be patient and live one day at a time. Recovery does not occur overnight.
  9. Try to accept setbacks and relapses with calmness and understanding.

10.  Refuse to ride with anyone who’s been drinking or using and don’t let your children ride with them.

What Not To Do

  1. Don’t attempt to punish, threaten, bribe, or preach.
  2. Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to drink/use.
  3. Do not cover up or make excuses for the person or shield them from the consequences of their behavior.
  4. Don’t take over their responsibilities.
  5. Don’t argue with the person when they have been drinking/using.
  6. Don’t drink/use in front of the person, even if you don’t have a problem.
  7. Above all, don’t feel guilty or responsible for their behavior.


(Adapted from : Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

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