3. Supporting your Family Member’s Recovery

What to remember about stages of change


Many family members cannot understand why their relative continues to use substances even when there are negative consequences. Although it can be difficult to support a person using substances, expecting immediate change is unrealistic. Being on the path to recovery involves identifying which stage of change a person is in and exploring how to motivate them to move to the next stage.

Recovery does not mean a person will never experience setbacks, go through hard times or relapse. Setbacks can occur, but individuals can continue to learn and move forward in spite of them. Recovery is a process, and a relapse to substance use is part of the process. Recovery takes time.

Try not to view lapses as failures or the loss of past gains. Instead, think of them as temporary setbacks, learning opportunities and a chance for your loved one to re-affirm their substance use goals. Your care and involvement may increase the time between lapses and reduce the risk of relapse. It is important to normalize relapse and remember that it is part of recovery. You can help by treating the relapse as serious, but not as a reason to despair.

You can also play a role in preventing relapse by:

    helping your loved one understand their patterns of use, recognize triggers and avoid high-risk situations
    helping to identify when symptoms get worse
    encouraging your relative to develop strategies for coping and acting early to prevent a full relapse
    encouraging social contact with peers and relatives who do not use drugs.