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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:

Spend some time learning about substance use disorder


  • Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening (Author: Robert Myers)
  • Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change (Author: Jeffrey Foote)
  • Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention (Author: Jeff and Deborah Jay)
  • Understanding Addiction: Know Science, No Stigma (Author: Dr. Charles Smith and Jason Hunt)

Online Courses:

Online Resources on Recovery and Change:

Support for Parents, Caregivers, and Loved Ones

The Recovery Community at Virginia Tech (RCVT) recognizes that the damage caused by a loved one’s use affects everyone that cares for that person. We want all members of the family and care team to heal and feel supported.

  • Individual, couples, and/or family counseling is often very helpful for caregivers and loved ones as they navigate very difficult circumstances.
  • 12 step groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Families Anonymous offer mutual aid support to families.
  • SMART Recovery offers Family Meetings
  • Celebrate Recovery is a Christian-Based 12-step Program that also offers resources for family support
  • RCVT offers a weekly “Loved Ones in Recovery” support group that is always accepting newcomers - contact Kaitlin Carter at for more information

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 — The 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