How To Help Your Dad In Addiction Recovery

Substance use disorders are painful, discouraging behavioral health disorders that can damage relationships and pull families apart. But family bonds can also be a powerful force for helping struggling loved ones come together and work towards an authentic, long-lasting recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.

A good dad will do anything for his children. But sometimes fathers need help too.

Whether you think your dad has developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or drugs or you have been watching as he works through the difficult process of recovery, you aren’t powerless. There are ways you can help your dad in recovery, no matter what part of the process he’s in.

Warning Signs Of Substance Abuse

Maybe your dad hasn’t sought treatment yet, or maybe you’re not even sure if he needs treatment.

There are many possible signs that someone is experiencing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, including some that may be difficult to notice and some that may look very different from person to person and from substance to substance.

Common warning signs to look for include:

  • strange swings in energy, mood, behavior, and motivation
  • using alcohol on a daily basis or drinking increasing amounts at one time
  • taking higher doses of a medicine than prescribed, taking it more often, or taking medicines that have not been prescribed
  • stashing alcohol, drugs, or paraphernalia around the home or in a vehicle
  • odd, secretive, or defensive behavior and self-isolation
  • slurred speech
  • physical symptoms such as small or large pupils, burns, trackmark scars, etc.
  • experiencing trouble at work or being absent from the home
  • unexplained money problems or financial stress
  • neglecting his own self-care, appearance, and hygiene
  • unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • losing interest in former passions, hobbies, and relationships
  • having trouble experiencing or showing pleasure when not under the influence
  • being under the influence in risky situations like driving or around children
  • sometimes showing signs of withdrawal, like irritability, anxiety, nausea, restlessness, insomnia, sweating, and trembling

7 Ways To Help

Addiction is a powerful force, and encouraging a loved one to seek treatment or helping them through the process of recovery can be a painful, frustrating, and difficult experience. But the unconditional love and support of family can help make the difference as struggling fathers find their way forward.

Depending on where your own dad is in his recovery journey, here are seven practical and effective ways you can help.

1. Learn About Addiction

Before you can help your dad, you need to understand exactly what he’s going through. Take some time and find resources that clearly explain what a substance use disorder (SUD) is, what effects it has, how it is treated, and what struggles those in recovery often face.

This will include learning that substance use disorders are chronic, relapsing mental health disorders that change how the brain is structured and how it functions. This leads to compulsive drug- or alcohol-seeking behavior and substance use, even when it is harmful and the person wants to stop.

But, as difficult as they are, SUDs are also treatable, and the more you learn about them the better equipped you will be to understand what your dad is going through and what kind of support and encouragement he will need.

2. Be Honest

Seeing a loved one struggle with addiction is difficult, and there may be times that you don’t know what to say or times where you aren’t sure if you should say anything at all. But good communication and expressions of care and concern can be meaningful, so make an effort to talk to your dad and let him know what you are seeing, thinking, and feeling.

This can be tricky, and professional family therapy sessions are oftentimes the best way to go about it. Otherwise, you should find a private and comfortable space to talk to your father when he is not under the influence. Share your concerns clearly and simply using “I” statements and stay on task.

Has your father been putting off getting help? Let him know you are worried about his health. Is he showing signs of relapse? Ask him if he has anything he wants to share. Are his emotions out of whack due to withdrawal or stress? Let him know it is affecting you and ask how you can help.

Remember, these conversations are about making a connection. They aren’t about winning or losing, and you will want to avoid blaming your father, attacking him, or trying to manipulate or pressure him. Try not to interrupt him when he’s talking, and avoid raising your voice. Just let your father know you love him, you have specific concerns, and you want to help him reach his goals and be better if you can.

3. Be Accepting

When faced with a loved one’s SUD, it can be tempting to either tiptoe around the issue and ignore the elephant in the room, or else go on the offensive. But awkward silences or jokes, nagging, hinting, begging, threatening, or bullying won’t help the situation.

Instead, focus on your father as a person and use non-stigmatizing language, as outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that shows that you understand the reality of the situation, that you are mature enough to accept that reality, and that you aren’t afraid of the struggles your father is going through.

Invite your father to events, ask questions, listen when your father shares, share your own insights, and allow yourself to have an authentic relationship with him through good times and hard ones.

4. Spend Time

Addiction is a fundamentally isolating experience. It drives people away from the relationships they cherish and focuses all their attention inward, locking them into their own experience. But studies have found that spending time with friends and family is extremely protective against all kinds of mental and behavioral health issues, including the depression and anxiety that can feed into substance abuse and relapse.

By sharing mealtimes, walks, weekend events, and regular calls with your father, you can build up your relationship and be a constant reminder of why he is working towards recovery and who is counting on him to carry on. Plus, this can also be a great way to check up on your father regularly, helping you to spot any signs of trouble early on if they do crop up.

5. Set Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries in addiction recovery must go both ways. They need to be fair, they need to be clear, and they need to be respected.

For your father to truly recover from addiction, he needs the freedom and independence to make his own decisions and direct his own recovery, his own way. Depending on his preferences, he should be able to have his own space, to control his own money (with safeguards), and to be able to avoid certain people, places, and situations that may be triggering.

Likewise, you should have your own boundaries ensuring that you are not required to bail your father out if he makes a mistake, that you are able to maintain your own space and turn your father away if he is under the influence, and that you can say no to his requests or demands without being pressured or attacked.

While it may at first feel strange to verbalize your specific boundaries or to exercise them, they are important and can help everyone involved feel safe and respected throughout the recovery process and beyond.

6. Be Encouraging

It can be hard to express just how discouraging the chronic, relapsing nature of an SUD can be, and it’s no surprise that so many people experience periods of lasting anxiety, depression, and despair along the way. But although you can’t be responsible for your father’s outlook all the time, it can pay to make a conscious effort to be your father’s cheerleader.

If your dad expresses doubts, challenge them and talk it out. If he says he doesn’t know what to do, offer to help him develop a specific plan of action, like getting a referral from his doctor, visiting an NA or AA meeting, or finding an inpatient alcohol rehab treatment facility. If he’s worried about being in a certain setting, offer to go with him or to be on call if he needs to reach out.

You may also want to set reminders for certain anniversaries for his recovery, so you can check in to celebrate his successes or talk over any issues.

7. Take Care Of Yourself

Supporting a father throughout his recovery journey may sound exhausting, and sometimes it is. This is why it’s so important to take care of yourself as well.

Make sure that you are establishing healthy habits, e.g., eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and balancing your alone time with social time with friends and loved ones. After all, if you neglect your own self-care, it will be that much harder to have the emotional reserve and optimism you may need for your father if he chooses to confide in you.

You may also want to consider counseling or therapy, or joining a support group for the friends and family of those with SUDs, like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. These healthy choices may help you better manage your own stress and safeguard your own mental and behavioral health.

Find Help Today

Helping your dad in recovery sometimes means spending time with him, listening to him, and encouraging him to keep going and not to give up. And, sometimes, it means asking him to consider professional treatment options like those provided by Spring Hill Recovery Center.

Here at Spring Hill, we know that addiction recovery can be hard and emotional. That’s why we work so hard to give the participants in our residential programs the personal attention, the knowledge, and the personalized treatment plan they will need to work towards long-term recovery.

We treat all forms of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, with specific treatment specialties that include:

To learn more about our inpatient treatment services and how they can help your dad in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse, please contact us today.

  1. Alcohol Research Current Reviews - The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery for Adults
  2. Indian Health Service (IHS) - Warning Signs of Substance and Alcohol Use Disorder
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - Reaching Out to a Loved One with Substance Use Disorder
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Words Matter: Preferred Language for Talking About Addiction
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - SAMHSA Family Support Guide

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

Published on: June 21, 2024

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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