I searched to see if this was posted previously, but I didn't quite find what I was looking for - so here I go:

My youngest brother is a drug addict.  Coping not only with his behavior, but some of the other people he has brought around my family, and the ways in which my parents have tried to help him has been trying.  He's been in and out of at least 13 different rehab facilities in the last year, and he is in the ER for an overdose again tonight.  I'm hitting a bit of a breaking point in the way that I interact with my family regarding this issue, and I'm not quite sure where to go for help/support.  I know many support groups are faith-based, and I am dubious of how helpful these venues will be for me.  I know there are more neutral groups out there, but I can't remember their names or how to find them.  Is anyone else familiar with this topic? 

Thank you all in advance for your help.

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I came across this a while ago.  I'm not sure how widespread or accessible they are, but at least it's something.


I actually live near los angeles, so that helps a bunch.  Thanks so much!

Hi Colleen I've worked as a psychotherapist in the UK helping addicts and families of addicts. My advice is to be selfish. This sounds counter-intuitive at first particularly when you care about someone.But it is essential you look after yourself first.That is paramount.you must maintain your integrity or you will not be able to help your brother.I would try to remember that addicts need "boundaries" if they are to recover so it is essential you keep yours. call it "positive narcissism" and don't give ground.

I don't know about self-help groups in the US but in the UK they are there for support regardless of race,creed or colour. If they are faith based , as long as they don't try to force religion onto you then I cant see any harm in joining one.

I hope things work out for your brother, your family and for you



Thanks for the advice bob.  I'm a psychologist myself, although I do not work in addiction.  I have very clear boundaries with regard to my brother, but that doesn't mean that everyone in my family (my mother in particular) understands and respects these boundaries.  I still hurt when I see him and my family in pain.  Hopefully a community will help me to stay the course and not feel so alone in the endeavor.  My parents sometimes go to Al-Anon, which is a faith-based support group that typically meets at churches.  Although there is no harm in joining one and I'm sure that I could still get something meaningful out of hearing others' stories in that environment, I'd prefer a community that doesn't focus on prayer and god as an answer.

Hi Colleen I have to confess my ignorance of groups in the US. It seems religion poisons everything. In the UK, AA and al-anon don't focus on god as such but seem to be more "spiritual" and that there is a "higher power". whatever that means to the individual.

I recommend "The book of Atheist Spirituality" by Andre Comte-Sponville as a good antidote to the poison. It sounds like your family need to pull together and find some common ground in what feels like a very painful situation.

My last thought is family therapy. I don't know if this has been discussed at all.

Anyway, look after yourself

kind regards


Family therapy would be amazing.  I end up acting like a mediator to get my my mom and my sister to communicate better, but I can't treat my own family that well when I'm going through some emotional turmoil myself.  Hopefully I can get them there one day.  Thanks so much for your help and kindness Bob :).

One needs to be selfish to keep from becoming a codependent or facilitator. Helping addicts often means denying them the help they ask for or seem to need to survive one more disaster (helping them get that "one last fix" or making excuses for them). This can hurt (you, not them).Often, it is the disaster there's no way to avoid that forces them to face up to their problem. Hopefully, that disaster doesn't involve a disaster for an innocent third party.

I happen to know, by the way, that groups for addicts and those enmeshed with addicts' lives exist which are not faith based and do not stipulate requiring a higher power.

Thankfully, I've never dealt with a family member struggling with serious addiction. That said I have dealt with many friends, as well as an ex, with addictions. For some rehab seems to help, even if it isn't a very reliable source. Not sure how old your brother is, or if he is still living at home, but I'm a firm believer that the most dependable way of helping an addict is by seeing to it that they run out of resources. I know that sounds harsh, but often times the concerned act as enablers even if they don't intend to (offering a place to stay, money for necessities that end up being spent on drugs, etc). If he is old enough to be on his own, taken he isn't already, I'd talk with your parents about giving him an ultimatum..."You have a month to clean up your act or you need to get out"...and sticking to it. I don't think drugs are are bad, but I think it's a sad thing when people abuse them to such a point to where it causes problems with those close to them. Running out of resources often means the individual is forced to find a means of taking care of themselves in the way of a job and a place to stay, something most serious addicts don't seem to be able to provide for themselves. When one is forced into such a situation, this often leaves them with little time to do drugs or the resources needed in order to obtain them ($$$). It will only work though if everyone he knows partakes in this. I know it's a scary decision to make, but sometimes it can put people on the right track. Giving him a month gives him plenty of time to figure something out.

Maybe give him the option of rehab. The sort one must stay at for some extended time period while they are coming off of whatever substances they are abusing. One can often leave these whenever they want, but I'd make it a point to not allow him back if he makes that decision.

I know it sounds harsh, but drugs can be too.

As I understand the question, you are asking for alternatives to Alanon for yourself, not to AA/NA/whateverA for your brother. I'm a recovering alcoholic, and have hadseriousissues with the higher power nonsense that AA espouses, which would be identical to that of Alanon I suppose. Something that has been helpful to me is a little book by Marya Hornbacher called "Waiting: A Nonbeliever's Higher Power". Ms. Hornbacher struggled with the "god stuff" in AA for some time, and came to an understanding of an atheist spirituality that works for her (and is working for me, thank you Ms. H).

I think that this book may be a good resource for you should you become involved in Alanon. Also, in larger cities, there are "We Agnostics" meetings in AA, so named from the eponymous chapter in the "Big Book" (Alcoholics Anonymous).{None in Nashville TN, alas!}  I would think it likely that there are such groups in Alanon as well.

Thanks Barry!  Just hoping to find a good community for support.  Hopefully that community can be diverse in belief or lack thereof.  We're all impacted by this regardless.  I can't help him or my family if I'm not in a good place myself :).

I am very familiar with this topic!

I have spent my whole life surrounded by addicts and their drugs. In my experience I have come to see addiction not as a disease(as they like to say it is), but as a personality disorder someone is born with. One thing I do agree with is that there is no cure and no one treatment that is 100% effective on everyone.

My father believes in a higher power, attends NA meetings regularly, and has over 20 years clean and sober. Although he would not admit it NA like most other treatments is a big scam that does not work for most people.

So why does it work for him?

Because he is addicted to it. He gets off on being with his junkie friends and helping the new comers. He loves going to the big NA functions like picnics, dances, concerts, and the big conventions. And he gets his regular fix at least once a week at a meeting he runs.

So my suggestions for your brother:


2) Find a new and healthy addiction

I recommend some type of exercise like running(I don't have an addictive personality and this running gets me hooked)

Call it what ever you want I don't care and I don't think it matters. What I know is what I said in my comment. I believe these people have a type of obsessive compulsive disorder.

My pops did not need any sense of purpose or belonging and he did not get into any deep depressions. He is a strait up party animal and when he does something he likes he doesn't know when to stop. He throws any sense of priorities out the window to keep doing it and his sense of well being becomes crippled.

I don't care what you have studied or read when your dad cleans out your college fund and steals your piggy bank then we can compare notes.

@ Colleen:

 vincent van noir wrote a great blog  'The Mythology of the Disease of Addiction' on the subject of Twelve Step treatment programs and debunks the idea that Addiction is a disease. Under his blog I wrote a summery of my experience with drugs and addiction.

If you still need help and further information or just someone to talk to feel free to contact me Bowery910@gmail.com I have witnessed this disorder destroy my family and the lives of many people I cared about.

If your desperate my dad knows of a place in mexico not far past the border where your brother can go for detox. It would still be his prerogative after the detox but durring they would hold him like a prisoner until the drugs are out of his system and he is no longer suffering from withdrawals. I have to note that this place is a serious dose of tough love and they do not mess around they will physically abuse your brother if he does not behave or tries to escape.




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