Your Loved One is Struggling. Now What?


two people sitting, facing away from the camera, one person's head on the other person's shoulder

By Sarah Blanshan, APRN, CNP

Someone you love is struggling with substance abuse disorder (SUD). You know because they are continuing to abuse drugs or alcohol despite the harmful effects it is having on their life and relationships. Now you are wondering, “How can I help?”

The good news is that recovery is possible. And you can have a significant impact in helping your loved one reclaim their life.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Speak directly to them about your concerns.
  • Research treatment options available in your area.
  • Recommend they get a chemical health assessment.
  • Schedule or stage an intervention.
  • Take advantage of your influence in their life.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Speak Directly to Them about Your Concerns

Pick a time that is good for both of you, avoiding times when either of you is tired, stressed, or angry. Make sure you are in a private place so you can both talk freely.

Ask them how they are doing. Let them know why you are concerned, being direct but kind in your language. Listen without judgment to any feelings they express.

Offer to help them get started and keep an optimistic tone to your conversation.

Research Treatment Options in Your Area

Having some information ahead of time about what treatment options are available in your area may be helpful when you discuss your concerns. Some options include outpatient or inpatient treatment, residential programs, medication therapy, and recovery housing.

You don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of each program, as each one will have staff to guide you in obtaining the best fit. But knowing there are options can help convey hope and courage in seeking recovery.

Recommend They Get a Chemical Health Assessment

A chemical health assessment is an evaluation by a trained assessor to determine if substance use is a problem and how severe it is. It may also be required to enter some treatment programs or to receive financial assistance.

Schedule or Stage an Intervention

An intervention is an intentional meeting when people who care about the person with SUD come together to present their concerns and ask the person to pursue treatment. It is best if an intervention is carefully planned and developed with input from a trained counselor or professional familiar with SUD.

Take Advantage of Your Influence in Their Life

You may or may not have much influence in your loved one’s life, but if you do, you should use it to encourage them to seek recovery. This may involve some difficult actions, such as not helping them financially or limiting their access to family members until they start treatment.

A New Beginning

Every day, individuals in our community discover that recovery is happening and is possible for them. Keep these tools in mind as you help those you care about enter recovery and begin a new life.



Chemical Health Assessments. Recovery is Happening.

Drug addiction (substance use disorder). Mayo Clinic. addiction (substance use disorder) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Getting Your Loved One Into Treatment. Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

Helping a Loved One Dealing with Mental And/Or Substance Use Disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Intervention. Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

Recovery is Happening.