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Support Yourself

Getting Help

Even if your child doesn’t want help, helping yourself can help your child. Just like on an airplane, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first. We offer:

  • Free Parent-to-Parent (P2P) Phone Support across Canada
  • Information on how to support yourself and your loved one

Other options include:

  • Visit your doctor and discuss your own mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and insomnia
  • Relax – yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, sleep, listen to music, spend time with your pet
  • Maintain friendships, date night (no talking about addiction), hobbies
  • Maintain healthy diet and exercise
  • Limit your own substance use

Educate yourself

You need to learn about addiction. Addiction is a disease; it is not a moral failing.  It is not a lack of willpower. Without this education, you may blame your child or yourself for their illness. You may feel shame or guilt and be less likely to get help.

You need to learn about drugs.  If your loved one is addicted to:

  • Marijuana – you do not need to worry about overdose except with edibles. Long term heavy use can cause a medical condition with severe vomiting which is relieved by hot showers. It is addictive but not a gateway drug. It is far safer than synthetic marijuana like K2 and Spice which are illegal in Canada. Driving while high doubles crash risk.
  • Illegal substances or opioids – you need to get a naxolone kit and learn how to use it
  • Alcohol or benzodiazepines – stopping cold turkey can kill them

You need to learn about recovery. There are many roads to recovery. Your loved one will have to figure out which path is best for them. Expect relapses. Relapses are not a sign that recovery has failed. Recovery is the process of learning how to live with a chronic illness. Your loved one is learning.

You need to learn about treatment. For example, detox is not recommended for people addicted to opioids. Instead, medication with a sufficiently long taper can significantly reduce mortality rates.

You need to learn about stigma. Families are a main source of stigma for individuals struggling with addiction. Learn how you may inadvertently be stigmatizing your loved one and yourself. Families need to learn about stigma and then educate others. We need to change society’s views about addiction.

Be hopeful

  • Most people recover. 
  • Long term recovery takes time and often includes relapse.
  • Relapse does not mean treatment has failed or your loved one has failed.

Never give up

  • Underneath the addiction, your loved one is still in there.
  • Recovery could be just around the corner.
  • Even those who have struggled for decades can recover.

Join a family support group

In a recent survey 30% of Canadians said they were personally impacted by addiction. Even though addiction is so common, many people are reluctant to talk with others unless they are not going through the same thing. Fortunately, there are many support groups:

Our Family Support Group Meetings

On December 3rd, FAR is launching a Parent Peer Support group.  It will provide a safe space where parents will be able to discuss practical strategies, find support, and share resources and information.

The group will meet the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, at Bellwood Health Services, 175 Brentcliffe Road, Toronto.  Participation is free, no registration required. We look forward to seeing you there!

Meeting dates:

  • December 3rd & 17th
  • January 7th & 21st
  • February 4th & 18th
  • March 4th & 18th
  • April 1st & 15th

Al-Anon Family Groups

Al-Anon teaches family members the 3 Cs: “you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.” Al-Anon has the advantage of being worldwide. Al-Anon meetings are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and are based on The 12 Steps of AA, except that Al-Anon meetings are for family members of the person addicted to alcohol, although now many in attendance have family members who are addicted to drugs other than alcohol. Meetings are led by persons with lived experience, not by professional therapists. Attendance is free, with the option of making a donation. There is no “cross talk” in Al-Anon meetings, meaning that comments are made but are not addressed to any particular person in the group. You can find general information about Al-Anon Family Groups on their website. You can find a meeting in your area by clicking here.

Nar-Anon Family Groups (Nar-Anon)

Nar-Anon is also worldwide and is for family members of persons affected by an addiction to any drug including alcohol. Nar-Anon meetings, however, are not based on The 12 Steps of AA. You can find general information about Nar-Anon Family Groups on their website. You can find a meeting in your area by clicking here.

Professional Family Groups

These groups are run by professional therapists with a background in social work or psychology. Some are private requiring a fee and others are public with no fee. You can find public family groups through the Addictions Treatment Helplines in Canada.

Peer-led Family Groups

These groups are run by a person with lived experience who is not a professional therapist. These groups are generally free, with the option of making a donation. You can find peer-led family groups through the Addictions Treatment Helplines in Canada.

FAR would like to thank Dawna Alexander and Karen Shafer for reviewing this section of our website.