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  • When it comes to substance abuse and addiction there are no easy answers. Watching a sister or another loved one fall into drug or alcohol abuse is one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through.

    However, there is always hope. While you cannot change someone who does not want to change, there are some specific steps you can take to help the sister in your life who you believe may be struggling with a substance use disorder:

    Build Understanding

    Addiction is not a choice or a moral failing, it is a disease of the brain that impacts a person’s behavior in profound and difficult ways. Research and learn about what addiction is and how it works, and avoid using stigmatizing language.

    Find Perspective

    A person must want to change before change can happen. This means a substance use disorder is ultimately something that every person who experiences it must learn to manage for themselves. You cannot do this work for them.

    Set Healthy Boundaries

    For your own benefit and the benefit of your loved one, you need to be able to establish and maintain clear boundaries for your relationship. 

    These boundaries may include not lending money, always being spoken to with respect, being able to say no, and giving notice before any in-person visits.

    Be Encouraging

    Instead of avoiding the problem, talk about it and be supportive. Encourage your loved one to find support and get help and then celebrate each milestone in their recovery journey. 

    This support can include finding treatment resources for your sister to consider, offering to give her a lift to the treatment center, or helping her attend treatment in other meaningful ways.

    Set An Example

    Stop drinking and stop using any recreational drugs. Even if you use these substances legally and in moderation, you should strive to set an example of healthy and clean living, especially in front of your sister.

    Allow Consequences

    When substance use and addiction causes your sister problems, it is important that she deal with those problems on her own. 

    Be willing to tangibly support your sister in ways that directly relate to her recovery, but don’t shield her from the natural consequences of her drinking problem or drug addiction, be they legal issues, health problems, or financial struggles.

    Be Optimistic

    The more positive, encouraging, and open you are with your sister and the more you cheer her on, the more likely she is to eventually explore substance abuse treatment options. 

    If a relapse happens along the way, remind her that this does not mean she failed. Encourage her not to give up.

    Practice Self-Care

    Supporting a loved one who is struggling with a substance use disorder can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. 

    Make sure to take care of your own needs, especially eating and sleeping well, spending time with the hobbies and passions you love, and seeking therapy as needed. You can also join a support group for those living with family members who struggle with addiction.

    Addiction Recovery Options

    Evidence-based treatment options that may be recommended to your sister as a part of her personalized recovery plan include:

    Ark Behavioral Health

    When your sister or other family member is ready to get help, please consider contacting us. We offer a wide-range of compassionate treatment services hosted in modern and comfortable treatment facilities.

    From detoxification to inpatient care, outpatient care, and treatment for co-occurring mental illnesses, we will work to give you or your sister the best possible foundation on which to build a lasting recovery and a better way to live.

    Reach out today to learn more.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Article Sources

    Al-Anon Family Groups - Homepage
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Drug Misuse & Addiction
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Words Matter
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Families

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