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Living with A Person Suffering from a Substance Use Disorder: Tips to Cope and Help Heal Before and After Recovery


Living with others is always a challenge. Developing balance, understanding, and respect is a vital component for a harmonious living situation with another person, whether it be family, friend, or significant other. Living with someone who has an active addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), may create more challenges than the typical housemate. 

Don’t Take It Personally

When someone you care about is struggling with a SUD, it is imperative not to take any of their behaviors personally. They are fighting a battle within themselves that you cannot understand. However, you can express that you are a supportive person in their life without enabling negative behaviors. Addiction to alcohol or drugs requires a team of participants, such as doctors, treatment programs, family members, and friends, to support the individual suffering from the SUD. 

Addiction Affects the Entire Household

Addiction can create a toxic environment that affects all the members of the household. Any member of the house, including the person suffering from the SUD, may experience negative effects due to addiction. Some of these effects include:

  • Stress may be due to the ongoing nature of the addiction and the stagnation of the situation.
  • Anxiety may be due to the feeling that you have no control over your loved one and their active addiction.
  • Depression may occur within the person with the SUD, which may have initially fueled the addiction. Furthermore, friends and family members may develop depressive-like symptoms due to the buildup of stress and anxiety. 
  • Guilt can come from the person with the SUD, furthering their active addiction. Friends and family members may feel guilty for supplying money, food, and shelter, which is enabling the addiction to continue.
  • Anger is common among the household. The person with the SUD may be angry that they cannot stop using drugs or alcohol on their own. Family or friends may be angry at them for continuing to use without seeking the help they need. 
  • Embarrassment occurs when the person with the SUD engages in behaviors while under the influence. They may be embarrassed by their actions after they have sobered up. Friends and family members may also be embarrassed by their loved one’s actions.
  • Financial struggles occur due to the active addiction taking up time from all members of the house, and in turn, costing money.
  • Inconsistent routines may disrupt the household, in which the active addiction is dictating the loved one’s schedule. The addiction is in control. 
  • Physical dangers and security risks are possible, mainly if the individual suffering from the SUD is intoxicated or drug-seeking.

Coping with Living with a Loved One and Their Active Addiction

It is important not to assign blame for the addiction, to yourself or your housemate. It is also imperative to understand you cannot fix it, or cure it. What you must do is ensure a safe household, and protect your well-being. Consider the following coping tips:

  • Keep yourself safe, as well as your family. Vulnerable family members include pets, children, and elderly relatives. Set house rules and boundaries. It may be necessary to ask your loved one to leave the residence if safety becomes an issue.
  • Create a plan if situations escalate. Those struggling with a SUD may become dangerous. They are not inherently threatening, but substance use may induce a harmful situation. It may be necessary to call friends, family, doctors, therapists, or even the police.
  • Restrict monetary access. Although your loved one may do or say anything to buy substances, it may be better limit access to bank accounts and credit cards. Otherwise, you may be enabling and promoting addiction. 
  • Encourage your loved one to enter treatment. 
  • Prioritize your self-care. The stress of living with a loved one with an active addiction can make it easy to neglect oneself. Meditate, exercise, eat right, sleep well, and make time for the things you enjoy. 
  • You may need to join a support group, which focuses on the needs of those who have loved ones with active addictions. 

Coping with Living with a Loved One During Their Recovery

After a loved one has entered rehab or abstained from using drugs or alcohol for a substantial amount of time, they are considered to be in recovery. Just because they have quit using substances does not mean they cured the addiction. Addiction is an incurable disease, but management and recovery are sustainable under the right conditions. Anyone in recovery is susceptible to relapsing or going back to using drugs or alcohol. Offer your support and build up trust with them to prevent a relapse from happening. Although it may be hard to trust a loved one who has stolen from you, physically or verbally harmed you, seeking help from a therapist may be the best thing to help you rebuild the trust your relationship needs to flourish. Encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings and their urges to use, as this can help ward off a relapse.  

Looking for Help?

Living with someone with an active addiction is hard for everyone, including the person suffering from the addiction. Wanting to help your loved one treat their addiction is a natural response, but you must also take care of yourself and your family so that you are equipped to help them in their recovery. Setting boundaries is possible, and making plans for a path to recovery is attainable. Maintaining positive communication and rebuilding the lost trust is imperative for helping your loved one sustain life-long recovery. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a safe and nurturing space for recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today a t833-801-LIVE.