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We often refer to substance use disorder as a family disease – as your loved one struggles with substance use – you often are struggling too. You are not alone.

Here are some actions to take:

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  • – Dr. John Kelly is a Harvard researcher who studies recovery. The site has great science but is geared towards readability.
  • The Recovery Research Institute also has great resources for those looking to understand substance use disorder, recovery and the terminology that is often used
  • The Surgeon General's Report
  • Pleasure Unwoven & Memo to Self are great places to start. Both are available on Vimeo
  • Take a course on Community Reinforcement And Family Training (CRAFT) at Cadence Online
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  • Individual counseling is often very helpful for families as they navigate very difficult circumstances.
  • Additionally, SMART Recovery offers online family meetings
  • Celebrate Recovery is a Christian based 12 step recovery program.

In the New River Valley

  • A great resource for people in our area – south west Virginia is Urgent Love
  • 12 step groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and Families Anonymous offer mutual aid support to families. You can find them in our area, in NOVA, in Richmond, in Piedmont, and also check the national pages of Families Anonymous and Nar-Anon to find a local meeting.


Naloxone is a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. If your loved one is using opioids, getting yourself and your loved one access to this life saving drug is essential. Virginia Tech offers free training once a month.

Use person first language to reduce stigma. Rather than focusing on the substance or the addiction, you can say “I have a loved one with a substance use disorder” or “I have a loved one who is in Recovery”.

Reducing Stigma Using First-Person Language

Words to Avoid Words to Use
Addict Person with substance use disorder
Alcoholic Person with alcohol use disorder
Drug problem, drug habit Substance use disorder
Drug Abuse Drug misuse, harmful use
Drug Abuser Person with substance use disorder
Clean Abstinent, not actively using
Dirty Actively using
A clean drug screen Testing negative for substance use
A dirty drug screen Testing positive for substance use
Former/reformed addict/alcoholic Person in recovery, person in long-term recovery
Opioid replacement, methadone maintenance Medication assisted treatment

Addiction is a chronic disease that must be managed — Your loved one will need to learn to manage the disease over the long term. The majority of people will not find recovery the first time they seek help. This does not mean that treatment was a failure.

Recovery is not binary — People tend to think of addiction in very black and white terms, Not drinking/using = success, drinking/using = failure. This can be problematic as it leads to the oversimplification, “He can just not use, and he’ll be fine.” Recovery is about a life-style change, and happens slowly over a long period of time. Often people have a slip or a lapse during that time. Family member’s ability to respond compassionately, yet firmly during these lapses can make all the difference in recovery.

30 days of recovery is barely a start — he vast majority of people need a number of recovery supports to be successful with long-term recovery. For many people, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous SMART Recovery or Celebrate Recovery serves this purpose, but other supports can be critical to augmenting this support. Length of engagement is incredibly important in predicting recovery outcomes. This can include:

  • Recovery Housing
  • Employment support (Through EAP Programs, Lawyers Helping Lawyers, Physicians Help Programs)
  • Recovery Coaching
  • Medication
  • Individual Therapy
  • Intensive Outpatient
  • Group Therapy
  • SMART Recovery
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • Refuge Recovery