how to deal with a drug addict sister

Substance addiction is a prevalent problem among adults and children around the world. Not only does it impact the lives of individuals who suffer from substance use disorder, but it also affects their families. The whole family can experience pain and difficulties as a result of the addiction of one person. In such cases, the siblings of struggling individuals can be a strong support to their suffering loved ones. 

Since mental illness affects women more than men, it is important to make treatment for women accessible and available. Fortunately, here at New Directions for Women, we offer treatment that specifically addresses the needs of women suffering from addiction and mental health challenges. So, if you have a sister who is suffering from substance abuse, allow us to help.

Understanding the Symptoms of Addiction

In many cases, drug and alcohol addiction can be easily hidden from parents or friends. But, close siblings are typically able to recognize when something is happening in their siblings’ lives. If you believe your sister is misusing drugs or alcohol, you may notice these changes in her behavior or appearance: 

  • Frequent intoxication: You might notice her appearing intoxicated quite often like bloodshot eyes, tipsy walking, etc.

  • Poor memory: Your sister may begin struggling to remember even the most important and important events, situations, occurrences, and details in her life. She may forget to keep appointments or carry out some of her normal responsibilities.

  • Increase in fatigue: Substance abuse most often increases body exhaustion. So, if your sister seems to be tired, weak, or fatigued on a regular basis, this could be a sign of addiction in her life.

  • Poor hygiene: If you’ve noticed that your sister is not taking good care of herself, this could be a sign of addiction. Signs of poor hygiene are often associated with substance use disorder.

  • Sudden change in weight: Drug abuse impacts body weight over a period. So, if you are seeing a sudden weight gain or weight loss in your sister, she may be dealing with substance abuse.

  • Dishonesty: Unfortunately, substance use disorder often leads to changes in the way people behave. Your sister may sometimes avoid telling the truth about her whereabouts in an effort to mask her substance use.

  • Problems in studies or work: People who are dealing with addiction often suffer from poor concentration which affects their day-to-day activities like studies or office jobs.

  • Mood swings: Moodiness is a common symptom of addiction. If your sister shows symptoms of anger, depression, or low patience level, it may mean she is struggling with 

  • Social withdrawal: Changing friends or avoiding social events are common signs of addiction.

The Challenges of Being a Sibling to an Addict

Figuring out how to deal with your sibling’s addiction can be challenging. Feelings of fear, anger, regret, and uncertainty may fill your heart and mind, as is the case for most siblings of addicts. Unfortunately, the effects of addiction on your family can impact you and your loved ones for many years to come. But, getting your sister the help she needs is how you can begin fighting addiction’s effects.

One of the most important things you will need to remember throughout this journey is that you can support and help your sister without enabling her. Sometimes, it can be difficult to recognize enabling behaviors. But, remember that, once you identify and avoid, these behaviors, you will be able to truly help your sister find freedom from addiction.

Recognize and Avoid Enabling Behaviors

To help your sister overcome addiction, you may need to do the following:

  • Set boundaries and stand by them (tough love).

  • Do not ignore her negative or harmful behaviors.

  • Encourage her to find a place to live (besides your home).

  • Avoid “covering” for her, or being dishonest about her whereabouts or activities.

  • Avoid giving her money. (Sadly, she may use it to buy more drugs or alcohol, even if she doesn’t want to behave this way.)

  • Do not prioritize her needs over your own needs. (This may seem like an act of love. But, you must not neglect your own health.)

Show Compassion

Being compassionate while avoiding enabling behaviors may seem challenging. But, just try to remember that your sister is dealing with a disease. She is facing a disorder that is extremely difficult to overcome. Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not a choice. But, freedom is. So, keep in mind that your goal now is to help your sister choose that freedom. 

Don’t Judge Her

Many individuals who suffer from addiction disconnect from social life because they are afraid of being judged. As a result, a sense of guilt and shame constantly disrupts their mind. As a sibling, try to understand your sister’s mental health rather. This might motivate her to change for good.

Create a Healthy Environment

Maintain a healthy environment around your sister to encourage healthy habits. Addiction often takes away normal habits like bathing, eating right, sleeping well, and so forth. Creating a normal environment around her will gradually improve her mental health. 

Be Positive

Coping with an addicted sibling is quite challenging. You may encounter many negative emotions, including anger and disappointment. You might even mentally blame yourself, your loved ones, or your addicted sister for the pain addiction is causing in your family. All of that is normal but it is important to focus on remaining mentally healthy. While helping your sister overcome addiction, you can practice self-care. This acts as a therapy to stay positive and strong during these trying times.

Staging an Intervention for Your Sister

Knowing how to help your sister get treatment for her addiction can be challenging. But, you may want to consider holding an addiction intervention for your sister. During an intervention, you may need to mention actions you will be taking to avoid enabling your sister any further. Be sure to stand by those statements, even when it is difficult to do so.

Interventions are often the opening move towards recovery from addiction. The process is generally done by close friends and family with the help of a therapist. It is a way to confront the addict to accept her addiction and convince her to receive help.

If your family decides to go for intervention to help your sister recover, ensure it is done with empathy and not accusation. It should focus on positive signs of recovery. Consequently, this will motivate your sister to get help. It is always advisable to stage an intervention under the guidance of a professional interventionist.

The process involves several steps like forming a team of professionals, friends, and family. Your group will also need to decide on a time and venue. The meeting will include discussing a list of impactful statements and offering help. Hence, this process needs to be rehearsed several times to avoid making an adverse impact.

Once your sister agrees to undergo treatment, you or another loved one can contact medical experts for advice. There are different forms of treatment for addiction and a specialist can help guide your sibling to the right one for her needs. A successful intervention will result in your sibling getting the help she needs.

Treatment Options for Drug Addiction

Some of the common types of addiction treatment programs and approaches include the following:

  • Residential treatment: In this method, individuals have access to treatment services around the clock. They live at their addiction rehab facility for the duration of their treatment program. This ensures individuals have the tools and resources they need in order to safely recover from substance abuse. 

  • Intensive outpatient treatment: While in an IOP, individuals can receive intensive addiction treatment while living in a sober living environment or another safe, substance-free location.

  • Telehealth options: This method of addiction treatment can help patients via telecommunication services without the need to travel long distances. Regular advice is given over telecommunication devices through texting, video calls, phone calls, web-based tools, etc.

  • Family therapy: While most treatments focus on physical and behavioral aspects, family therapy focuses on rebuilding strained relationships between family members. This helps an addict heal emotionally and return to a sense of normalcy faster.

addiction therapy for an addict

Helping Your Sister After Treatment

As your family works through your sibling’s addiction recovery process, it is important to find out how you can help bring healing to the family unit. You can encourage your sister to find a healthier way to live now that abusing drugs is no longer an option. You and other family members can help your sister develop healthy coping methods.

Reconnecting with Family Members and Close Friends

Your sibling may have trouble reconnecting with the people she loves as she goes through recovery. This is not an uncommon challenge for people struggling with addiction. But, families can help their struggling loved ones by being a part of their recovery. Family therapy, support groups, and other resources are available to help you, your parents, and other siblings reconnect with your sister.

Developing a Sense of Responsibility and Accountability

As your sister continues to recover from drug or alcohol addiction, she will need to develop a sense of responsibility. Accountability will be an extremely important component of sobriety as she moves forward. You can help by encouraging her to continue attending therapy and treatment, even when she is struggling to feel motivated.

Recovery requires hard work and dedication. It can be challenging for individuals to stay on track. But, your support can make a big impact on your sister’s journey to recovery. You, your parents, your siblings, and your other family members can give your sister the motivation and love she needs to remain accountable to her commitment to overcoming addiction.

Get Help at New Directions for Women Today

Once your sister is on the road to recovery, it may take a while before life feels “normal” again. She may need help remembering how life has improved in recovery.  This is the perfect time to invest some time into strengthening your friendship and encouraging her to thrive. Once she finds her rhythm, it will be one of the most transformative experiences for you and for her that you can both enjoy for years to come. Contact us today to learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs at New Directions for Women. We are here to help.