Helping yourself

Taking care

If the person using drugs is living in your home, you need to think about keeping yourself and other members of the household safe and lessening the impact of stress. Here are some simple strategies to consider:

  • stick to your usual family routine
  • accept help from others
  • celebrate successes and positive milestones like birthdays
  • stay positive and have hope
  • have a laugh/ do something fun together
  • solve one problem at a time.

The basics

Taking care of your basic needs can give you a solid foundation for dealing with the tougher stuff.

This means eating regular meals, getting a little exercise and trying to have regular sleep. Make time for hobbies, clubs, sports. Consider yoga, reading, a regular walk with a cherished friend. These engagements give you something to look forward to and, where they are social pursuits, they help keep your support networks strong.

Where you find you have been caring for a loved one for an extended period of time, it’s essential you consider respite care. There are services where your loved one can go and stay for a weekend, or where someone will come and stay in your home so you can go away on your own. You will do a better job of caring for your loved one if you get breaks.

Eating well, exercising and relaxing can make the world of difference to your mental wellbeing when dealing with a stressful situation.

Finding support

The Alcohol Drug Helpline is a good place to start if you want information on a particular type of drug, or advice on making changes. The helpline has experienced professionals who provide a confidential and free service to anyone impacted by drugs.

Experiences of others

Often people with a loved one dependent on drugs feel isolated and ashamed. Another person’s dependency to drugs is not a reflection on you or a failing on your part.

Pennie and Peter’s story is a good example of parents dealing with their daughter’s drug use disorder. They talk about the shame they felt and how they found a way of coping.


Remember to create and maintain very clear boundaries around what you find acceptable in your home. This is one of the most important steps you can take – for your sanity and for your loved one’s recovery. More on setting boundaries


Talking to a trusted friend can release the stress you may be experiencing. Choose carefully who you share this sensitive information with. The ideal listener will be someone who is not judgmental and is removed from the situation. Talking can help you gain clarity and it provides an opportunity for people to help and support.

Support groups

The support and understanding of other people in your situation can be very healing. Al Anon is a 12-step group for spouses, families or friends of alcoholics and people with drug dependencies. Regular meetings are held throughout the country. You can listen to others and, when you’re ready, talk about your experience. You will give and receive support.

If there isn’t an Al Anon meeting in your town, the Alcohol Drug Helpline can refer you to support groups in your area.

AraI had periods of thinking I knew and then not wanting to believe it, because it was a quite hard thing to accept. And I firmly believe that I wasn't ready, because I think I knew that I was going to have to leave.

More stories

Tips for loved ones

  • Accept the person has a problem needing attention.

  • Don't try to talk to the person about your concerns when they are under the influence of drugs/alcohol.

  • Don't cover up or make excuses for the mistakes they make when they are intoxicated.

  • At every opportunity, let the person see the consequences of his or her behaviour.

  • Don't nag, scream or lecture. It will only cause feelings of anger and resentment.

  • Don't accept rude or physically abusive behaviour as normal or understandable. It is never OK for you to be mistreated by anyone.

  • Don't feel guilty if you are upset because they have broken a promise to you. People with drug problems often make promises that they can't keep, and it is natural that you would feel disappointed or hurt.

  • Don't judge the person as weak, stupid or lacking in willpower because they can't control their drug use. Drug dependency can happen to anyone.

  • Don't feel sorry for the person with the drug problem. When you feel pity, it is more likely that you will try to take care of the person rather than encourage them to get the help they need.

  • Don't blame yourself for the problem. Other people's actions do not cause drug dependency.

  • Do learn all you can about drug problems.

  • Do make sure you have at least one person who you can talk to about your feelings and worries.

  • When the person opens up and admits they need help, assist them to access appropriate support services.

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I learn't self care's huge, especially if you have got a family you can't just fall apart, you can't just not get out of bed, you've got to get up, you've got to deal with the kids.