Our drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment team hears from family members and carers who frequently ask how they can support their loved one, while maintaining their own wellbeing.

We understand that addiction, dependency, and frequent alcohol/ drug use puts a great deal of strain on relationships and family units.

So, the team thought it was important to include some introductory strategies that anyone can implement to keep up with their wellbeing whilst supporting someone on their journey.

It’s important to note, while these strategies were developed with people dealing with substance misuse in mind, anyone can use these strategies – as we all have our own unique struggles and challenges that life throws our way.


Are you struggling to cope with someone who has an addiction or drug problem?

It is important to remember to engage in self-care during this stressful time.

Caring for someone who is using substances can be highly stressful and frustrating, leaving carers feeling exhausted and depleted.

Throughout our Breakthrough For Families program, clinicians have found that a high percentage of people who seek support have forgotten about their own health. This can result in increased stress and burn-out.

No one can care, or respond effectively when they are feeling this way, hence why self-care is so important.

Some self-care tips include:

  • Going for a walk on the beach
  • Meeting friends for coffee
  • Going for a bush walk
  • Taking time out to watch your favourite TV series
  • Exercise
  • Ensuring you get enough sleep
  • Engaging in mindfulness


To add onto these tips, it is a great idea to build a self-care routine.

A self-care routine has been defined by the World Health Organisation as “taking all the steps you can to take care of your physical health and well-being” (Source: WHO, 2021).


Here are some ideas to help get you started:

  • Firstly, think of an activity that makes you happy and brings you energy
  • Decide on a day and time that you can commit to engaging in that activity
  • Prioritise engaging in this activity on a weekly basis
  • Before bed, complete a nightly self-check in, reflect on how you are feeling if you are feeling low consider what you can do the follow day that will make you feel better

Signs that you are suffering from stress:

  • Physical: Fatigue, weight gain, muscle, and joint pain
  • Feeling: angry all the time, overwhelmed, hopeless, nervous, anxiety
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Stomach or digestive issues
  • Sleep issues: insomnia, trouble getting to sleep, or broken sleep patterns
  • Headaches or migraines

“Stress can have impacted you both physically and emotionally, stress can increase your risk of developing certain illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression.”

Source: Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI journal16, 1057–1072. https://doi.org/10.17179/excli2017-480.


If you would like to speak with a drug and alcohol worker, call our confidential advice line on: 1800 263 274.

Please note, this advice line is not manned 24/7 and is not a crisis support line.

To register for a BFFQ session, click here.


How to talk with to someone about their drug and/or alcohol use

Talking about substance use is difficult in any circumstance. So, we always recommend seeking expert advice and support that is tailored to your situation.

As part of the Bridges Breakthrough For Families program, our trained alcohol and drug workers can support you by providing strategies to improve communication between you and the persons that you are supporting.


It’s important to remember that change is never achieved through blame and shame!


Are you concerned about what others may think if they knew that your loved one had was using a substance or drinking heavily?

Many people that come to see the team at Bridges have said that they haven’t told their friends or family about their loved one’s drug use as they are concerned about what they will think.

Many parents have reported that they feel as if they are to blame for their children’s drug or alcohol use.

We understand that there is a stigma within the community in relation to substance abuse.


How common is drug use in Australia?

  • Around 1 in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance abuse problem.
  • Just under 1 in 6 Australians drink at risky levels
  • According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), an estimated 9.0 million (43%) people aged 14 and over in Australia had illicitly used a drug at some point in their lifetime.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Illicit drug use. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/illicit-drug-use


Bridges is committed to addressing the stigma and discrimination for people who are experiencing alcohol and other drug use, and their families.

It is our hope in future that families and carers can discuss and seek support for their loved ones within the community the same way they would if they were diagnosed with any other physical condition.

That in the future, there will no stigma and that families will receive the same support from friends, family, and community members.

However, we can’t do this alone. We encourage families, carers, friends, and community members to be brave and ask for support, challenge those with stigmatised views, and offer your support to others who are struggling.


Research shows that there are improved treatment outcomes for people using drugs or alcohol when they have a supportive family member or friend.


“The family can be a strong protective factor against illicit drug use. By building resilience and self-confidence, the family can be a person’s strongest defence against drugs and their most steadfast support in rehabilitation and treatment.”

Source: VELLEMAN, R. D., TEMPLETON, L. J., & COPELLO, A. G. (2005). The role of the family in preventing and intervening with substance use and misuse: A comprehensive review of family interventions, with a focus on young people. Drug and Alcohol Review24(2), 93-109. https://doi.org/10.1080/09595230500167478