Addiction is damaging not only for the individual living with it firsthand but also for those who love them. For families whose loved ones have an active addiction, are seeking professional help, or are coming out of rehab, practical, compassionate advice and an occasional dose of humor can help them navigate new boundaries and relationship dynamics. The following books about addiction and family can serve as valuable resources for families, regardless of where their loved one is on their journey.
10 Books for Family Members of Addicts
1. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
Written by best-selling author Melody Beattie, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself is a practical guide that outlines how readers can refocus on their own needs and happiness. Loving someone who’s living with an addiction can be emotionally draining, particularly for those who feel responsible for their loved one’s behaviors. This book guides readers through identifying why they care for others at the expense of their own health and understanding that the only person they can control is themselves. It can be helpful for those learning to establish boundaries as their loved one progresses through addiction recovery.
2. Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens and Nicole Kosanke, with Stephanie Higgs
Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change counters the common idea that “tough love” is necessary for helping a loved one recognize their need for substance abuse treatment. (Learn more about intervention supports at FHE Health and how they are helping individuals seek treatment.) Citing decades of collective years of research and clinical experience, this book highlights how families can utilize motivational and behavioral strategies and a kinder, more positive approach to help someone change. It also reminds readers that no one can make someone else change, but they can help them recognize change is possible.
3. Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope and Recovery by Beverly Conyers
Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope and Recovery is a collection of firsthand accounts from parents, siblings, and children of addicts. This book pays tribute to the pain of addiction while highlighting the importance of recognizing that family members don’t cause and aren’t responsible for their loved one’s addiction. It features practical, actionable advice regarding setting boundaries, finding emotional support, and enjoying life more fully. It also gives tips on providing support without enabling.
4. It’s Not Okay to Be a Cannibal: How to Keep Addiction from Eating Your Family Alive by Andrew T. Wainwright and Robert Poznanovich
It’s Not Okay to Be a Cannibal: How to Keep Addiction from Eating Your Family Alive is an easy read that explains substance abuse and the recovery process. It’s written by someone who formerly lived with substance addiction, providing a unique perspective on how addiction can impact a household. The book uses cannibalism as a metaphor to describe how those in addiction lose their sense of shame and propriety. It contains advice on planning and carrying out interventions, what to do if a loved one resists change and how families can move forward.
5. Everything Changes: Help for Families of Newly Recovering Addicts by Beverly Conyers
Everything Changes: Help for Families of Newly Recovering Addicts provides guidance on how to navigate post-rehab life with a loved one recovering from substance addiction. It addresses common misconceptions and unrealistic expectations individuals may have when a loved one exits inpatient care. Readers get an overview of some of the physical, mental, and emotional changes that their loved ones may be going through. The book also gives useful tips on establishing new rules and routines that help their loved one’s recovery journey and cultivate a sense of normalcy at home.
6. Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction by Maia Szalavitz
A New York Times bestseller, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction offers an alternative perspective on addiction. It challenges the idea that an individual with a substance abuse disorder has an addictive personality or psychological predispositions to addiction. Instead, it postulates that addictions are developmental disorders that fall on a spectrum and are normal responses to extreme situations. The author uses her personal experience with addiction and over two decades of research to illustrate how history, environment, culture, timing, and the substances themselves can create addiction and guide the recovery process.
7. I Love You, More: Short Stories of Addiction, Recovery, and Loss from the Family’s Perspective by Blake E. Cohen
Authored by Certified Addictions Professional Blake E. Cohen, I Love You, More: Short Stories of Addiction, Recovery and Loss from the Family’s Perspective contains three short stories that provide hope for families affected by substance abuse. While many other books provide practical insights on the science and mechanics of addiction, Cohen’s book highlights the emotional journey of individuals whose loved ones are profoundly affected by substance abuse. Each story concludes with a message to those who are living with addiction, a message for their family members and a message from Cohen’s father written from a parent’s perspective. Each story features discussion questions and a place to take notes for future reference.
8. Addict in the House: A No-Nonsense Family Guide Through Addiction and Recovery by Robin Barnett
For many individuals sharing a home with someone living with an addiction, a lot of effort may go towards maintaining peace and keeping their loved ones alive and safe. Addict in the House: A No-Nonsense Family Guide Through Addiction and Recovery highlights how codependent behaviors may prevent someone from recognizing their need for rehabilitation. Author Robin Barnett references her own experience with a sibling’s addiction to provide practical tips on handling a loved one’s chemical abuse. The book covers how to accept the reality of a loved one’s condition and handle repeated cycles of recovery and relapse.
9. Addiction in the Family: Helping Families Navigate Challenges, Emotions, and Recovery by Louise Stanger
Addiction can be isolating, both for the individual living with the disorder and those closest to them. Addiction in the Family: Helping Families Navigate Challenges, Emotions and Recovery features real-life examples from Dr. Louise Stanger’s years of experience as a social worker, interventionist, and family trauma clinician, highlighting the prevalence of addiction. The book is family-focused and offers advice on addressing the challenges of maintaining a relationship with a partner, parent or child living with substance use disorder. It provides actionable tips on setting boundaries, pursuing addiction treatment, and maintaining open communication with a loved one.
10. Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction by Candace Plattor
In Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction, author Candace Plattor offers a fresh approach for how individuals can preserve their mental health and life satisfaction while living with someone with an active addiction. It covers topics such as understanding the nature of addiction, recognizing enabling behaviors and setting boundaries. It also provides 10 steps individuals can take to reclaim their lives.
Supporting a Loved One Living with Addiction
Navigating home life while sharing a roof with someone with an addiction can be a challenge. For most people, progress comes slowly with small victories and discouraging setbacks along the way. Books for families of addicts can provide fresh perspective and insight, practical advice, and reassurance that no one is experiencing this alone.
Kristina Robb-Dover is a writer for the national behavioral health provider FHE Health and a co-author of the book The Recovery-Minded Church: Loving and Ministering to People with Addiction.