Looking after our physical and mental health is vital. It is particularly important if you are supporting a loved one who is living with complex challenges. If you are a family member or friend of someone who is living with a substance misuse issue, taking care of yourself will enable you to take good care of them. Centacare Drug and Alcohol Service manager Gabrielle Preston has these self-care tips to boost your wellbeing.
Take time out

Looking after yourself is one of the most important things you can do to help your family.

Loving, caring and supporting someone who uses substances can be mentally and physically exhausting. To ensure that you have energy to support them, it is important that you take time out for yourself, maintain your own interests, and connect with others.

Consider accessing support for yourself to help talk through your worries and concerns for your family member.

Educate yourself around their substance use and explore ways to nurture your wellbeing so you can support them more effectively.

Accessing personal support will not only help you to manage the situation but will also model to your family member how to seek help without judgement.


Talking with a young person about their substance use might be confronting but this is important in order to understand their use and the sort of support they need. Misunderstanding what or why they use can lead to assumptions about what is going on, as well as increased anxiety about what might happen in the future.

Creating a space and time to convey curiosity and care without judgement in communicating with your family member or friend may lead to greater understanding and openness about the situation. This opens the door for further conversation and requests for help when they are ready.


Sometimes when a family member uses substances they may behave in ways that contribute to damaging relationships and trust. While the person may be under the influence or withdrawing when these behaviours present, be clear for yourself about what behaviours you will and will not tolerate.

Setting boundaries is best done together with the person you are supporting in a non-judgemental way, and with the message that you love and care for them but there are limits to what you might accept or do in response to their behaviour.

Ultimatums rarely result in someone changing their behaviour. However, love, care, support and clear boundaries will maintain connection and opportunities for change when your family member is ready to take action for themselves. Remember: the issue is the behaviours not the person.


One of the hardest things families talk to Centacare about is accepting that, despite their best efforts, they cannot make their family member change.

Many parents and families describe feelings of guilt, fear, and hopelessness, and that they feel responsible for `fixing’ the situation for their child.

Families that accept that they can provide information, love and care but ultimately can only control their own behaviour are more able to clearly identify what they will and won’t do to ensure their own self-care and maintain connection with the person that uses.


Consider connecting with other parents who have or are currently walking the same path as you. Family Drug Support holds regular groups across South Australia for family members who are supporting or have supported someone in relation to their drug use.

Speaking to others can help you feel that you are not alone, be reassured that recovery is possible and diminish the shame and stigma that comes with substance use.