How to Deal With an Addicted Sibling

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Within families that have healthy relationship dynamics, siblings are often extremely close. Oftentimes, when you have a sibling, you love them unconditionally, depend on them as a friend and confidant, as well as share many of the most important moments of your life with them. Unfortunately, when addiction impacts your sibling, however, the relationships may become painful or confusing.

Dealing with an addicted sibling is difficult, especially when you have never dealt with substance abuse yourself. After all, addiction is a family disease, meaning it affects the addicted individual and their loved ones as well. Learning how to properly cope with your sibling’s addiction is always painful, even more so when your sibling is your closest friend. Oftentimes, people look up to or idolize their siblings, making it difficult to cope when they begin to deal with issues such as addiction.

Common Reactions to a Loved One’s Addiction

Everyone reacts differently to trying situations, especially when it comes to an addicted sibling. Some individuals may feel angry, confused, ashamed, or even partially guilty for their sibling’s substance abuse. It is important to remember that you did not cause your sibling’s addiction, and therefore, you cannot fix it either. However, there are ways to help your sibling throughout their battle with addiction while continuing to practice self-care. First, let’s take a look at the common reactions to a loved one’s addiction.

Feeling As if Your Sibling Chose Substances Over You

Oftentimes, individuals with addicted siblings feel as if their brother or sister does not care about them anymore, or cares more for drugs and alcohol. However, the biggest step in understanding addiction is learning that your sibling’s addiction has nothing to do with you.

Experiencing Feelings of Broken Trust

Oftentimes, individuals suffering from addiction lie to and manipulate the people they love. While you might believe your sibling the first few times they promise something, you may lose all trust after they continue to break commitments and responsibilities. This is extremely common, especially regarding sibling relationships that are affected by addiction.

Anger With Your Parents

You may start to become angry with your parents for enabling your sibling’s addiction. This often leads to dysfunctional parental relationships. On another hand, you may feel like your parents’ focus is entirely on the addicted sibling, leaving you to feel unwanted, abandoned, or invisible.

Being Unsure of How to Feel and Act

When people are trying to cope while living with an addicted brother or sister, they do one of two things. Some people may try to turn it into a humorous situation and make light of everything, becoming somewhat of a “class clown”. This is a form of unhealthy coping mechanism, where an individual uses humor to mask pain. Or, an individual may strive for perfection to negate some of the shame and disbelief of the addicted sibling’s behaviors. Lastly, some individuals may go in another direction and let their school work or career slide, to take the negative attention off of their sibling.

Tips for Coping With an Addicted Sibling

Dealing with an addicted brother or sister is often mentally, emotionally, and even physically draining. However, the negative effects of a sibling’s addiction can be decreased by learning the proper coping mechanisms and tools for dealing with a loved one’s issue with substance abuse. For example, one of the first things you should do is become educated on the disease of addiction. By being aware of the causes and effects of substance abuse, you can begin to understand why your addicted sibling is behaving in the manner they are.

Let’s take a look at some simple tips for coping with an addicted brother or sister.

Set Boundaries

While your sibling is ill, that doesn’t mean that they are allowed to behave towards you in ways that distress or harm you. It’s sane and sensible to set healthy boundaries and rules, such as no drug use in your house when your sibling visits you. While setting boundaries is often a difficult task, when you follow through with healthy boundaries your sibling’s behavior may become more tolerable.

Maintain Relationships With Other Family Members

It is important to maintain relationships with other family members that you are close with. Because your sibling is not behaving as their normal selves, you have to find another family member to confide in, get support, and receive advice from. This may include spending time with your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even other siblings if you have multiple. It’s important to note that you should spend time with your family members with and without your addicted sibling present.

Stop Supporting Your Addicted Sibling Financially

Everyone in the addict’s family needs to understand that providing the addicted individual with money, is only helping the addict feed their addiction. Even though you are trying to help them financially, this will only enable them to continue using substances. Instead, refuse to cover for them and stop providing excuses for their addicted behavior. You should always offer your addicted sibling love and support, however, choose your form of assistance carefully.

Be Prepared to Offer Help

If your addicted brother or sister shows an interest in attending treatment, you want to be ready to provide that for them as quickly as possible. Individuals suffering from addiction should always begin treatment with a detoxification program and continue by attending inpatient or outpatient rehab. On the other hand, some individuals may be unwilling to attend treatment despite being in the depths of addiction. If this is your case, it may be time to consider professional intervention. Without the help of a professional addiction treatment program, many individuals continue suffering from substance abuse until they eventually lose their battle.

Finding Treatment for Your Addicted Sibling

It’s never easy watching a sibling battle the effects of addiction. If your brother or sister is currently struggling with substance abuse, contact New Jersey Addiction Interventions today. We can perform a professional intervention if your sibling is not willing to accept treatment or provide you with resources to the best treatment centers in the country. Don’t wait until it’s too late, contact us today!

Medically Reviewed: November 18, 2020

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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