The Best Family Support Groups for Addiction: How Families Get Help


Dealing with drug addiction in the family can be daunting, painful, and chaotic. The guilt, fear, and added responsibility of covering up for the person having drug dependency issues can be overwhelming.

However, you’re not alone in the fight. According to statistics, over one in every 20 people in the USA have drug dependency issues. Also, there are several family support groups for drug addiction with vast knowledge and ability to help you cope better with the situation and connect you to people with similar struggles.

This article provides an overview of addiction, everything you need to know about these groups, and some options to begin the process.

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What Is the Group Called For Family Members of Addicts?

Support groups for addiction offer an excellent avenue for individuals and families interested in discussing drug addiction with people who understand.

Drug addiction affects both the addict and their family members. That’s why these addiction support groups effectively provide moral support and guidance. Some of the most common options include Families Anonymous, Nar-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon Family Groups, etc.

What Can Families Do To Cope With a Loved One’s Addiction?

Families play a significant role in the recovery process of an addict. In most cases, drug addicts with families and friends around them during recovery have a smoother journey to sobriety.

As an individual, you may ask what your input can be and what you should do to support and aid your loved one’s recovery journey. Here, we provide some tips to get you started and going:

  • Seek counseling together
  • Learn about addiction as much as possible
  • Prioritize your mental and physical health
  • Prepare and eat meals together
  • Connect with understanding individuals through places like family support groups for addiction

What Are the Common Characteristics of Addicted Families?

Having an addict in the family affects every member and can cause impacts that last a lifetime. For instance, children with an addicted parent often develop coping mechanisms to survive the complications resulting from the disorder.

Since people react to situations differently, some kids will be quiet and less involved. Others will develop habits like overeating, while some will step up to play the role of the addicted parent. Depending on each child’s reaction, the complications of addiction can last them for a lifetime and change their future.

These reactions and impacts result from the fact that addiction often changes the functionality of a family and may alter normal activities like effective communication and self-expression. Here are some characteristics common with families with addiction issues:

  • Feelings of guilt, fear, shame, resentment, frustration, hopelessness, and loneliness
  • Poor parenting
  • Disruptions in family activities
  • Children feel less loved and insecure,
  • Kids blame themselves for their parent’s addiction
  • The family focuses on managing the addict
  • Development of various family survival roles to cover up or enable the addict

Types of Family Survival Roles

In the face of addiction, different family members take up roles to protect the addict and provide a distraction from addressing the issues. These roles became popular after an expert in codependency and addiction, Sharon Wegsheider-Cruse, identified them in 1976.

According to the roles, the addict is often at the center of the family. Everyone else is therefore trying to protect them, cover up for them, or enable them. They are the famous five survival roles alcoholic families often adopt to cope with the situation.

Here are the five survival roles in a family dealing with addiction:

The Chief Enabler

Also known as the caretaker, a family enabler takes the responsibilities of the addict and covers up for their problems. They make it their responsibility to carry the addict’s problems, secure them from any consequences, and protect their image.

They’re sometimes called the martyrs of the family. Apart from supporting dysfunctional behavior, caretakers also shield the addicts from facing the consequences of their actions. They sometimes go as far as making excuses.

A good example of a caretaker in a dysfunctional home is the helicopter parent who does everything to protect their child from harm. While the desire is noble, it’s not functional in solving the problem and may cause more damage than good.

For instance, most caretakers struggle with setting healthy boundaries with the addict. The addict may never see a reason to address their drug use habits.

The Hero

The family hero is sometimes referred to as the golden child or saint. Like a caretaker, the family hero tries to paint a perfect picture of the addict to hide the family’s dysfunctionality. The golden child lives a flawless life and is the marking scheme of the whole family. Every child lives in comparison to the hero.

Growing up, family heroes do everything to behave right, or else the family crashes down. They’re the adults who want to be over-responsible, perfect, and self-sufficient. They go the extra mile (behind closed doors) to restore the family from dysfunctionality.

Heroes work so hard to reunite their families and restore normalcy through their achievements. Like caretakers, heroes do noble tasks of keeping the family functional. However, the burning desire to be perfect may put a lot of pressure on the golden child and make them susceptible to stress and anxiety-related complications later.

The Scapegoat

The family scapegoat is sometimes referred to as the black sheep or troublemaker. Unlike the hero, the scapegoat carries all the blames in the family. It could result from disobedience, mental illness issues, hostility towards others, or any other behavior that negatively attracts the family’s attention.

Most family scapegoats are often second-born kids. They may not have any negative behaviors or be problematic, but they possess some unique characteristics that make them distinct from the rest of the family members. That makes them ostracized, and their troublemaking nature or uniqueness is viewed as the cause of complications in the family.

While everyone else is thinking about the scapegoat and blaming them for every misfortune, bad behaviors like addiction may not receive attention.

The Lost Child

The lost child is quiet, always coinciding with the scapegoat or hero child. The two roles receive maximum attention in the family, with the lost child hanging somewhere in the middle, feeling left behind. The lost role is more common in large families or those with a mentally-ill child. They end up lonely, withdrawn, and sometimes invisible.

The scapegoat expresses themselves through anger, troublemaking, or uniqueness, and the hero works hard to shine. On the other hand, the lost child lives by the unwritten law that “children are there to be seen, not heard.” Thus, these children fight strong yearnings for love and attention. They’re also lonely most of the time. These traits may extend into their adulthood.

The Mascot

The mascot is the family’s comedian, always lighting up the mood when negative issues arise or tension builds up. Through their jokes, silliness, and sense of humor, mascots manage to minimize the underlying issues or facilitate denial of the real problems.

As adults, mascots find it hard to connect with negative emotions and always deflect them using humor. Also, the mascots, sometimes called family clowns, are always in motion. Thus, they become more prone to anxiety or depression if they have to stop or slow down.

Why Knowing the Roles Is Necessary

The codependency rules may feel helpful and necessary in families dealing with addiction. However, they’re more destructive than helpful since they deter families from seeking real solutions and getting help from professionals.

Also, their effects are often long-term. Thus, counseling is also suggested to help you overcome your survival habits and live a normal, free life.

Support Groups for Families of Addicts

Family support groups for addiction offer an efficient way to deal with drug and substance dependency. It allows you to interact with people having the same struggles as you, thus understanding you better.

Numerous addiction therapy groups nationwide are working towards supporting families with individuals struggling with drug dependency. Here are some excellent options to consider.


Al-Anon is an international fellowship program for friends and families with alcoholics. It doesn’t emphasize getting your loved one to stop drinking alcohol. However, Al-Anon addresses the mutual struggles friends and families with addicted loved ones face.

The program provides spouses’ and partners’ support, parents’ support, sibling addiction support, and other resources for coping and dealing with addicts. For instance, you can gain access to stories from other siblings of alcoholics, offering peer support and insight.


Nar-Anon Family Support Group for addiction is a 12-step program for families with drug-dependent loved ones. It’s a perfect place to seek validation and receive support from people on a similar journey.

It’s more diverse, addressing issues arising from having loved ones addicted to a wide range of substances like opiates, prescription medication, alcohol, etc. they hold meetings regularly to benefit their participants with addicted loved ones.

Nar-Anon is free to join and participate. Also, the program keeps all its members anonymous and is excellent for all family members, including siblings, parents, friends, or spouses.


Alateen is part of the Al-Anon program focusing on the younger (adolescent) group of family members and friends of individuals with addiction problems. It looks at the common issues families and friends of an addict faces, including self-esteem issues, extreme caretaking, or unnecessary guilt and blame.

Like Al-Anon, Alateen is international, accepts members from across the globe, and focuses on families with alcoholics.

Families Anonymous

Families Anonymous is another excellent group for those having loved ones with addiction problems. It’s also a 12-sep program founded in 1971 to support parents concerned about their kids’ addiction.

Today, Families Anonymous focuses on everyone with an addicted loved one, whether a parent, sibling, spouse, child or friend.


GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing) is a program geared towards friends or family who have lost their loved ones to addiction or drug overdose. It focuses on providing mental and emotional support for those grieving the loss of their kin to drug use.

Learn to Cope

Learn to Cope is among the best family support groups for addiction. It’s a peer-led support community offering education and other resources to help friends and families with addicts.

Learn to Cope has one chapter in Florida, 27 in Massachusetts, and a virtual forum for holding online meetings.

Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL)

Are you worried about your child’s drug use habits? Get support and motivation from fellow parents in Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL). The group has a host of educational data and online resources available 24/7. You can also attend their face-to-face support group meetings across the nation.

Through the group, you can address the pain of having an addicted child and learn the best ways of relating to your kid’s struggles and helping somebody with an addiction. PAL sessions are open even for the addicts to attend. But, the program is more focused on equipping parents with coping tricks for dealing with addicted loved ones.

Recovering Couples Anonymous

Recovering Couples Anonymous focuses on rebuilding healthy communication and restoring intimacy to couples who have suffered the negative effects of addiction. While it’s not part of Alcoholics Anonymous, Recovering Couples Anonymous’ systems are much more like AA’s.

To be a participant, you only need to promise that you’ll remain together and focus on working on your relationship.

SMART Recovery Family & Friends

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a science-based and secular community for helping family members and friends of addicted loved ones. Through numerous meetings in several cities nationwide, SMART Recovery uses non-confrontational formulas to teach functional coping mechanisms to individuals with addicted loved ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions regarding family support groups for addiction? Here are some questions and answers to help you understand the topic better.

Why is family support so important in mental health?

Family support is essential in a patient’s mental health recovery journey. According to various health practitioners, patients with friends and families rooting for their recovery focus on their treatment more and are relatively engaged.

On the other hand, those with little or no support from family easily drop out of their treatment or are less engaged.

What is the best thing to say to an addicted loved one?

Addiction elicits various emotions in families and friends of loved ones, and it’s easy to get vicious with your words without noticing. While expressing yourself and communicating your feelings is essential, be kind and calm with your comments.

Feel free to communicate your feelings.

Wrap Up

Loving a spouse, child, parent, or sibling struggling with addiction can be daunting and chaotic. With all the struggles, losing yourself or developing coping mechanisms that change your personality eternally is easy.

Thanks to the numerous family support groups for addiction available globally, you no longer have to endure the struggle alone. We’ve listed some of the best options to help you cope better and help your addicted loved one in this article.

What are your thoughts about addiction in families and the available support groups? Talk to us in the comments below.


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