The Top 5 Healthy Coping Skills For Loving An Addict

May 2, 2024

I asked the 40 or so current members in our family membership, “What is the healthiest coping skill you’ve learned with us so far?” They are parents of alcoholics/addicts, they’re spouses of alcoholics/addicts, they’re siblings of alcoholics/addicts—their relationships are across the board.

If you’re someone who loves an addict, you know that a relationship of any kind with an addict is really freaking hard. Really hard.

So today, I’m going to share the top five healthy coping skills that my clients have shared.

Coping Skill #1: I can’t control my loved one

“I can’t control my loved one. I am responsible for my response to them.”

This is not an easy one to put into practice. We all know intellectually that we can’t control other people, but I’d bet most of us still try. Some part of us still believes we can change them, even when our mind knows we can’t.

Tell me, do you find yourself saying, acting, and responding from a place where you think you can change someone else?

If you catch yourself saying, “I know they can’t help it but they did it again,” then you likely have not fully integrated this knowing into your actions. 

It takes (1) knowing we can’t control others, (2) believing we can’t, and then (3) acting from the place of that knowing and believing (acceptance).

Embracing this understanding that the only one you can control and are responsible for is yourself is one of the biggest ways to get yourself off of the roller coaster and into the peace you deserve.

Coping Skill #2: Holding my boundaries

“Learning to hold my boundaries.”

There is so much to learning to hold boundaries. 

For starters, it’s knowing what a boundary even is (hint: it’s not a consequence, and it is not about them). From there, it’s knowing how to create a boundary. Then how to communicate it with love and detach from what the other person’s response to it may be. And then, of course, how to hold it when that boundary is challenged.

It’s a lot of stages to go through to really live with solid boundaries in place. And I’ll tell you, it’s much easier to do when you are part of a community of others leading their own recovery paths, practicing the same skills.

Coping Skill #3: Not hopping on the addiction roller coaster

“Not hopping on their roller coaster.”

What does this mean?

You get a text message, you get a request for something, you get a call—any of the crap that addiction flings at you—and instead of jumping into the chaos alongside your loved one, you choose not to.

It’s the idea that their emergency does not need to become your emergency. Their problems do not need to automatically become your problems.

This takes time to be able to do. For our clients, it’s an average of three months of regular practice (showing up at meetings, watching recordings, posting in the online community to stay accountable, etc.) before they’re able to consciously and consistently choose to stay grounded in their recovery rather than be swept into the fray.

Hmmm…it actually takes the same amount of time for your addicted loved one’s brain to begin to heal

And by not getting caught up in addiction’s chaos, you can start to create the conditions by which recovery can be more accessible to your loved one.

Coping Skill #4: What I choose to do with how I feel is nonnegotiable

“My nonnegotiable is what I choose to do with how I feel.”

Think about it: would you let a stranger into your home doing the things your loved one is doing?

Chances are you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t tolerate the emotional distress.

Let’s ask ourselves, “Why am I allowing someone to continue to mistreat me?”

When it’s our loved ones, we are emotionally compromised. Coping with this means unpacking all that emotional baggage and making strategies for each aspect of it.

How is this making you feel?

Where does it come from?

What do you want to do about it?

What’s going on for you?

Coping Skill #5: Reaching out to my recovery peers

“Reaching out to my peers in this program, no matter how ugly the situation.”

No one recovers alone.

It is as true for recovery from the family disease of addiction as it is for those with substance use addiction.

When you learn how to share your most ugly pain as a result of living with addiction, the love, support, and validation you get from others will allow you to take different action. 

No matter how small.

And that change in yourself is what can open the door to lasting change for your loved one and your family as a whole.

If you want to learn more about our family recovery framework, there are two great options available to you:

  1. Get my book, Dear Family, Why Your Loved One Won’t Accept Help and How to Help Them Anyway, which breaks down our Dear Family Framework and provides strategies for how to start implementing the very coping skills I mentioned in this post.
  2. Join us for our current round of our live Stop the Chaos Study Group. We meet this Wednesday, May 8th at 12pm EST, and it’s the perfect way to start learning these principles with the guidance and support of Kate and fellow recovering families.

    To join the study group, register for Stop the Chaos here, and be sure to check the box for the study group on the checkout page.

And let me know in the comments, what is a healthy coping skill you have learned that’s helped you manage living with or loving someone with substance use disorder?

Leave a Comment


  1. Nancy Thompson

    Thankyou. That message speaks volumes. I’m working it and have failed a couple of times and gave into something then got pooped on as usual so… no more favors. Yes it’s hard. I am gardening and making cards to slow my mind. I am also talking to my hubby more abt the situation. I’m going to an online codependency meeting. I tried an online Al Anon group but I couldn’t maneuver the sheer size of it so I’m looking for another. I will keep at this one day at a time.

  2. Nancy Thompson

    Oh and Stop The Chaos study group and the Double Circle zoom on Thursdays. I’m finding strength.

    • Kate Duffy

      We are so glad to hear this, Nancy. Berenice, TPR


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