How to Help a Drug-Addicted Sibling
More than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with drug addiction at some point in their lives. While it is easy to look at a number like that in writing without giving it much thought, each of those 23 million people is a real human being with families, friends, and loved ones. Many of them are brothers and sisters who have caused a lot of turmoil and harm in their family unit. Although sibling relationships can be complicated and rocky, they are also unbreakable.
If you have a brother or sister who is addicted to drugs, you’ve probably felt a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ve probably felt angry, scared, sad, or even betrayed. Regardless of the troubles your addicted sibling has put you through, deep down the odds are you still want to help. While it is natural for you to want to offer your assistance, few people know what to do when someone they love is struggling with addiction.
Here is what you can do to try and help a drug-addicted sibling.
Don’t Enable Your Sibling’s Drug Addiction
When you care about someone deeply, you may feel obligated to protect that person. When it comes to an addicted brother or sister, you may feel like you have to act as your sibling’s caretaker or protector. Although it may feel as though these behaviors are helpful as they keep your sibling comfortable, these behaviors only prolong your sibling’s addiction. Behaviors that help another person act out on negative behaviors and shielding them from consequences are considered “enabling behaviors.”
Examples of enabling behaviors include:
- Calling your sibling’s work, school, or friends to make excuses for his or her absence or behavior
- Lying to cover up for your sibling’s behavior
- Paying for rent, food, electricity, gas, or anything else that your sibling should be capable of paying for themselves
- Bailing your sibling out of jail
- Covering legal fees
- Providing housing or other assistance that your sibling should be providing for themselves
Even though your intentions are pure, enabling will never help your sibling go to rehab. Instead, enabling will only allow them to continue using drugs or alcohol without consequence.
Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Brother or Sister
In addition to putting an end to enabling, you must also set healthy boundaries with your sibling. Boundaries communicate what you will and will not tolerate. They will also show your sibling that you are serious about no longer accepting unacceptable behaviors.
Examples of boundaries you may consider setting with a drug-addicted sibling include:
- Not allowing them to stay at your home while under the influence
- Refusing to attend social events with your sibling where drugs and alcohol are being used
- Not allowing drugs or alcohol in the home
- Refusing to speak with your sibling while he or she is under the influence
When setting your boundaries, let your sibling know what the repercussions will be for crossing your boundaries. Even though refusing to help your addicted sibling may be difficult, it is in their best interest. By setting boundaries, you allow your sibling to face the full brunt of the consequences of their addiction. Oftentimes, when an addict no longer has people enabling their behaviors and is required to respect boundaries, they reach a place of despair that makes them want to ask for help.
Educate Yourself About the Disease of Addiction
If you truly want to understand your sibling and be helpful–both in addiction and in recovery–it’s vital that you educate yourself on the disease of addiction. There is a huge stigma that surrounds addiction. Many people believe addiction is a choice rather than a disease. However, researchers and medical professionals alike have recognized addiction as a chronic, progressive, and relapsing disease.
Individuals who suffer from addiction are often unable to control the frequency and extent of their drug use. Their brain may convince them they aren’t going to get high one morning, but then they find themselves using drugs just hours later, wondering what happened to their promise of sobriety. Substance abuse also changes the way people think, feel, and behave, and these changes can affect your sibling substantially.
Consider reading about the disease model of addiction, attending an Al-Anon meeting, or speaking with an addiction specialist to better understand what your sibling is going through.
Consider Staging an Intervention
If you’ve put an end to enabling behaviors, set healthy boundaries with your sibling, and tried confronting him or her personally about getting help, but you still haven’t been successful, you may try staging an intervention. An intervention is a process where you and your sibling’s loved ones get together to confront your sibling and try to convince them to go to rehab.
Interventions are a great way to make a person understand just how harmful their behaviors have been. They can help open your sibling’s eyes to the reality of their addiction and make them willing to accept help. The ultimate goal of an intervention is to get your sibling to agree to go to an addiction treatment program.
Drug and alcohol interventions are most effective when facilitated by an addiction specialist. Consider speaking with a substance abuse treatment provider before staging an intervention on your own.
What Not to Do When Dealing With an Addicted Sibling
When trying to help your drug-addicted brother or sister, you should also be aware of what not to do. Avoid taking these actions:
- Don’t ignore the problem. Ignoring a drug or alcohol problem will only allow it to get worse and continue causing harm in your sibling’s life.
- Don’t look down on them, shame them or call them names. Remember, addiction is a disease. Your brother or sister isn’t a bad person–he or she is sick and needs help.
- Don’t lose patience. Sometimes, recovery is a slow process. Keep trying to help and know that your sibling will accept your help when he or she is ready.
Find Help for a Drug-Addicted Sibling Today
Our addiction treatment facility at Carolina Center for Recovery is a family-owned and operated business that is dedicated to helping families overcome addiction. We know just how difficult it is to deal with an addicted sibling which is why we’re here to help. Call today to learn about our treatment programs and to find assistance getting your sibling into rehab.
Medically Reviewed: October 11, 2021
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.