Seeking Help for Yourself While a Loved One Still Struggles

Serious talk, setting boundaries
Photo by fizkes/

What is the solution when two substance abusers live under the same roof and one wants to get clean and the other isn’t ready? The answer requires an understanding of the relationship between addiction and drug treatment.

Addiction becomes addiction when a person cannot stop using drugs on their own—therefore treatment is critical.

There is no doubt that breaking free of substance abuse is a challenge, one that every substance abuser hopes to succeed at one day. Sometimes an addict can feel as though it is impossible to stop abusing drugs or alcohol—that the burden is too significant and that there is no hope. But one day, perhaps because of a bad turn of events, the individual decides enough is enough and makes the determined effort to get clean through rehab.

Drug rehab is the guiding hand that pulls an addicted person from the morass of substance abuse and sets them on a path to healing, growth, lifestyle change, higher responsibility, self-discovery and boundary-setting. Effective treatment breaks the chains of addiction and teaches life skills. But treatment is just the first step to full recovery—it continues after discharge. Continuing sobriety involves controlling the environment and practicing life skills to build a robust and lasting foundation for continuing sobriety. This includes many things; a supportive environment (possibly the most important), healthy lifestyle plans, seeking support when needed, diving into activities, joining good groups, creating life goals, etc.

Addiction in the Family—What Does it Take?

Young family man and woman alcohol problems woman standing close-up looking up desperate
                          Photo by Victoria Gnatiuk/

There must be a safe place from where to create a new life after treatment. What if an individual returns from rehab to a home where there are one or more people still using substances and who doesn’t want to get clean? Is there a method of approach a rehab graduate can employ to safely return to the same home where a loved one is still abusing substances?

The answer is no—at least not in the beginning of a new clean life. It is critical that anyone, fresh from rehab, stay away from environments where active substance use is occurring. It is not easy to get to the other side of addiction and once a person has arrived at sobriety, they deserve to remain there. A substance-free life is well earned. Why waste the effort and resources it takes to get clean, only to return the individual to an environment where the taunting traps of drugs or alcohol remain? It is the job of treatment to ensure that this does not happen. During rehab, the addict should be encouraged to examine all relationships that contributed to substance usage in the first place. This would include anyone in the home. These relationships should be resolved during treatment and addressed during discharge planning to avoid trouble in the future.

Of course, no one wants to abandon a family member to a future of suffering from addiction. It could be possible to get the using family member into treatment from the safe harbor of rehab. But the help should not include the clean family member going back to a home where another family member is using. This could be disastrous.

It is expected that every drug rehab client participates in discharge planning with professionals, before leaving treatment. These staff members are invested in ensuring that discharge planning supports continuing sobriety for the individual. They have the resources to contact family, find alternate housing, or do whatever it takes to make sure that the graduate is discharging to a stable environment. Though no one can promise miracles, there are usually plenty of resources available to work out discharging to a place of safety; one where the individual can stay clean.

What does it take to create stability in recovery?

Though discharge to a safe environment is perhaps the most vital aspect of maintaining sobriety after treatment, there are other tools vital to recovery. And it is important to understand that addiction is a real condition, one that takes some effort and continuing awareness to fully overcome.

Tools for Maintaining Sobriety

Fortunately, there are skills and tools that can be learned in rehab and used to help maintain sobriety.

  • Setting Boundaries: If despite best predictions, a person returns home from treatment only to learn that a family member or loved one is using substances, it is crucial that the person stays clear of the user, without compromise. Arrangements should be made for one person to find a new residence. If treatment planning is thorough it is unlikely that this could happen, but if it does, the person must hold the line and not be afraid to ask for help from others, including their rehab. At the same time, a situation like this might present a great opportunity to get the using family member help. The rehab graduate, from another location, might want to do everything possible to help the user get into rehab. The rehab that the graduate attended will most likely be willing to help.
  • Avoiding Environments Where Substance Use Happens: An individual must avoid environments and places where substance use happens. That means diligently avoiding old haunts and stomping grounds, staying away from bars, office parties, social engagements that involve alcohol, etc.
  • Watching for Triggers: Certain occurrences, signs, indications, nudges, interactions, memories, people, and places can act as “triggers” for relapse. Similar to avoiding environments where an individual might be compelled to revert to drug use, a person must also avoid triggering situations... For example, if the individual always went out every Friday night for drinks with friends, before rehab, this tradition would have to come to a permanent end. Another example would be to avoid relationships that create stress or invite criticism.
  • Avoiding manipulation: Sometimes past drinking or using buddies are not comfortable when one of their “friends” gets clean. They can try manipulative behaviors to draw the person back into using. Maintaining sobriety requires identifying these individuals and avoiding them.
  • Seeking Support from Pro-Sobriety Advocates: It is important for a recovering addict to identify and seek support from pro-sobriety advocates. For anyone in recovery, this can include family members, friends, and church members.

Narconon helps recovering addicts every day to get clean, learn the life skills necessary to maintain sobriety, and lead happy and productive lives, well after graduation.

If you need help in your recovery or want to help someone else, contact Narconon today.



After graduating from the program in 2008, Matt works to help others find a new way to live life, free from drugs and alcohol. Matt is an Internationally certified drug and alcohol counselor and has written extensively on addiction and evidence-based treatment. You can follow him on Linkedin.