Resources for Families & Caregivers
The BC Centre on Substance has partnered with family and caregiver representatives, as well as people with lived and living experience with substance use, to develop several resources to help people understand substance use and addiction.
Many families and caregivers have found that the most helpful first step in navigating the system is to find a support group for themselves. There you will meet other parents and caregivers who are on the same journey, who may be a few months or years down the road, who know about the services firsthand, will have contact information and can share what has worked and what has not for their own young person.
Holding Hope is a series peer-led support groups, offered at no cost, to families with loved ones living with addiction (substance use disorder) across Canada.
Holding Hope provides mutual support and healing by coming together to share stories, resources and support one another. These groups provide the reassurance that you are not walking this journey alone. They provide a safe place to build strength and resilience for families who feel overwhelmed in supporting their loved ones.
Find a Holding Hope group near you here.
Anxiety Disorders Toolkit
A manual specially tailored for those with anxiety problems or a diagnosed anxiety disorder. A comprehensive and helpful resource that also features quizzes.
A series of three toolkits to help you understand, manage and prevent relapse of depression.
Coping with depression during pregnancy and following the birth
This workbook has been contributed to HeretoHelp by the BC Reproductive Mental Health Program of BC Mental Health and Addiction Services. This resource is for women wanting to learn self-help skills to prevent and manage depression during pregnancy and after birth.
Family Self-Care and Recovery From Mental Illness Manual
This manual is designed for families of people dealing with a mental illness. It will help family members be informed caregivers, including taking care of themselves and other family members and maintaining their own health.
How You Can Help: A Toolkit for Families (aka the Family Toolkit)
If you're a family member, friend or other carer, this workbook aims to help walk you through what you need to know about helping someone you love struggling with a mental or substance use disorder.
Mental Disorders Toolkit
A series of three toolkits to help you understand, manage and prevent relapse of a mental disorder.
You and Substance Use Workbook
This workbook uses stories, quotes, cartoons, and lots of questions and tips to guide you through the process of understanding more about the role of alcohol or other drugs in your life.
A series of worksheets on various topics to do with mental well-being including stress management, exercise, nutrition, emotions, relationships and thinking patterns. A useful resource for everyone.
The pioneering Australian family support group Family Drug Support boils down its advice to three points:
This is the most underused yet most important communication skill. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.
No matter how difficult, having everything out in the open is the best policy. If you can, find ways to encourage your child or loved one to speak by being open and honest with them. Honesty and openness, rather than hiding your agenda and strategizing to get what you want, allows you to role model the way you would like to communicate and treats your child or loved one with respect.
Looking for Cues
People who use drugs tend not to want to talk much about their drug use, problems, or feelings. Occasionally they will drop a hint or say they need to talk. It is important that you make yourself available and listen as calmly as you can. Try to choose a suitable moment.
What about siblings?
If you are a parent reading this resource, you may be worried about your other children (if applicable). Beyond the emotional impacts of having a sibling dealing with problematic substance use, if your child is living in your home, the health and safety of other members of the family, especially younger ones, may be at risk from pills, powders, or needles left lying around.
Siblings can be strongly affected by their sibling’s substance use. They may experience many of the same emotions and worries as you do, from worries about the health and safety of their sibling, to frustration and resentment at the attention and energy that the family spends on their sibling. Siblings may try to protect their parents by being “perfect,” for example, excelling in school and taking on emotional and physical tasks from their parents. Helping your children access support, which may be a counsellor, support group, or other resource, can help them to develop healthy coping strategies. Everyone is different and will have different responses and needs. Tailoring your approach to each child will help you to best support them and help them access appropriate external support.
Keep everyone “in the loop,” and remember to check often to see how all family members (including you) are faring.
When you spend most of your time worrying about and supporting your child or loved one and other family members, it can be easy to neglect yourself. Taking care of yourself is just as important.
- Don’t blame yourself. Guilt is not a useful emotion. Other people’s actions generally do not cause addiction.
- It is natural to feel anger, hurt, and disappointment.
- Admit it when you’ve blown it, apologize, and move on.
- Focus on what you can do, and let go of what you can’t. Nobody can force someone with a substance use disorder into treatment or recovery.
- Stay connected. This is a time when you need to reach out to your family and friends, not to withdraw because of feelings of shame. You’ll be amazed at how understanding most people will be, especially if you talk about addiction as a disease.
- Explore paths you may not have tried before. Many find daily readers like Al-Anon’s One Day at a Time helpful during difficult times, and this may be a time to investigate your own spirituality. A list of resource books is also available at the end of this section.
- Get support! You don’t have to go through this alone, and you don’t have to stick with the first counsellor you meet. Find a counsellor who you feel comfortable with, ideally one who specializes in substance use. Keep trying until you find one you can work with. Counselling BC has an online tool that can help you find professional counsellors and psychotherapists who are registered with a recognized professional body in BC and allows you to search by location, areas of practice, approaches, and language spoken. This tool can be accessed at http://counsellingbc.com/counsellors.
- Consider joining a group for those impacted by substance use. This may be in addition to or instead of finding a counsellor. There is no substitute for personal experience, and self-help groups (Parents Forever, Parents Together, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon) offer mutual support from people who have been there and are still struggling with addiction issues.
- Consider accessing Family Smart’s Parents in Residence and Youth in Residence Program, which provides peer support, mentoring, help with system navigation, and information for youth or young adults with substance use challenges and families and caregivers of youth or young adults with substance use challenges.
- Don’t let embarrassment or shame get in the way of taking action. Others in your community are bound to be struggling as you are. You just need to find one another.
- Try posting a notice of a meeting at your local church, community or health centre. Let health and other professionals in the field know what you are planning, and get their help in advertising and organizing the gathering. In other words, get creative. You have nothing to lose but your isolation.
- Keep an eye on your own health and well-being. Self-care is not only essential but can also demonstrate healthy coping techniques for your child or loved one dealing with problematic substance use. Maintaining and supporting your own physical and emotional health allows you to best support your child or loved one and other family members. Try to eat well and exercise regularly (and encourage everyone in your family to join you).
- Go to events, go for a walk, and spend time with others you find supportive.
- Talk to your GP or other health professional if you need more help than you’re getting now. Other ideas for self-care include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating enough nutritious food
- Having enough down time
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Spending time with friends
- Getting outside into nature
- Doing an activity or hobby you enjoy
- Creating nourishing rituals and routines
- Moving in a way that feels good
- Eating your favourite food
- Spending time with pets
- Therapy or counselling
- Taking necessary medications
- Writing in a journal
- Exercising or other physical activity
Above all, don’t give up on your own life, dreams, and goals. You will survive—one day at a time.
The following is a list of books that others dealing with their child or loved one’s substance use have found helpful.
Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery / Beverly Conyers, 2003
Addiction: A Mother’s Story - My Son’s Descent into Addiction and Where
It Took Us /june Ariano-jakes, 2011
After Her Brain Broke: Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity / Susan Inman, 2010
Beautiful Boy: A Father’sjourney Through His Son’s Addiction / David Sheff, 2009
Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change / Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, Nicole Kosanke, Stephanie Higgs / 2014
Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the Drug War / Johann Hari, 2015
CLEAN: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy / David Sheff, 2013
Drug Addiction and Families / Marina Barnard, 2006
Everything Changes: Help for Families of Newly Recovering Addicts / Beverly Conyers, 2009
Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth About Addiction Treatment - and How to Get Help that Works / Anne M. Fletcher, 2013
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction / Gabor Mate MD, 2010
Love Her as She Is: Lessons From a Daughter Stolen by Addictions / Pat Morgan, 2000
Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction / Candace Plattor, 2010
Loving Someone in Recovery: The Answers You Need When Your Partner Is Recovering from Addiction / Beverly Berg MFT PhD, 2014
Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs / Marc Lewis, 2011
Wasted: An Alcoholic Therapist’s Fight for Recovery in a Flawed Treatment System / Michael Pond, 2016