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Helping a Niece or Nephew With Addiction – And Talking to Their Parents About It

Aunts and Uncles are often very important in the lives of their nieces and nephews. In fact, if you have a niece or a nephew with an addiction, it's possible that you were one of the very first people who found out about it. It might have happened because you started to get suspicious about some of his or her behaviors, or it could have been just because your niece or nephew felt comfortable enough with you to confide in you about what was going on.

Either way, now that you know about the addiction, this is information that you know you need to do something with. The question is, what should you do?

There's no doubt that you are in a difficult spot. You don't want to lose your niece or nephew's trust, but at the same time, you want to do what's best for them as well. There are a number of different things you can do, and several things that you need to be aware of and avoid if you have a close family member who is suffering with an addiction. Knowing what to do and how to react can help take some of the burden off of you, and this is a hard one to carry all by yourself.

At Northpoint Recovery, we've worked with a number of aunts and uncles who all shared the same concerns that you have right now. Their nieces and nephews are all so special to them, just like yours is to you. In fact, sometimes it may even seem as though they are your own children. When an addiction comes in and starts to threaten the life of someone you care about so deeply, it's important for you to take quick action, and we can help you know what to do.

Niece and Nephew Addiction Information

Identifying Alcohol or Drug Dependence in Your Loved One

You may be facing a situation where you suspect that drugs or alcohol may be a factor for your niece or nephew, but you're not exactly sure. You don't really know the signs of addiction that you should be looking for, and that can make it difficult to know what you should do about the situation.

There are a number of different signs of addiction that you should be able to see if your niece or nephew is currently addicted to drugs or alcohol, and some of these include:

  • Asking to borrow money because of financial difficulties.
  • Frequently taking prescription drugs, even though there doesn't appear to be a reason for them.
  • Drinking alcohol alongside prescription drugs.
  • Exhibiting personality changes or changes in behavior.
  • Complaining of having no motivation.
  • Becoming easily irritated or agitated.
  • Slurring his or her speech.
  • Exhibiting shakes or tremors.
  • Noticing changes in daily routines.
  • Not paying close attention to personal hygiene.
  • Spending time with a different group of friends.
  • Participating in activities that are unusual.

If you have noticed any of the above signs within your niece or nephew, it's possible that a drug or alcohol addiction could be the reason why.

Your Niece or Nephew's Addiction: Don't Overreact

Whether you have been noticing strange behaviors and you now suspect that an addiction is present, or your niece or nephew has come to you and admitted to having an addiction, the worst thing you can do is to overreact. Your instinct is probably to react in anger, frustration or disbelief, but these will only push your family member away and cause problems within your relationship. Your niece or nephew needs to know that your love for them does not change one bit, and that regardless of what he or she is going through because of the drug or alcohol addiction, you will be there to offer support and help.

When Confronted with a Family Member's Substance Abuse, Take a Step Back

Once you know for sure that your loved one has an addiction, in addition to not overreacting to the news, it's important for you to take a step back so that you can assess the situation. Reacting based on your first instinct is likely to cause a great deal of harm to your relationship, and this is not something you want to happen.

You will undoubtedly want to talk with your niece or nephew about the addiction, but it's important for you to go into that conversation with a plan in place. You need to know what you're going to say, and how you're going to say it. You also need to choose a time when your family member isn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Taking this time to logically think about your next steps is crucial because it could mean the difference between a niece or nephew that is willing to get help, and one that is happy to stay involved in substance abuse.

Enabling Your Loved One in His or Her Drug or Alcohol Use

It is so easy to slip into the role of becoming an enabler, and sadly, so many family members do just that when they find out that a loved one has an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, people don't realize that the way that they support their loved ones is only allowing the addictive behaviors to continue. They think they're being helpful, when in reality, they're only making the situation worse.

Some common enabling behaviors might include:

  • Offering to take your niece or nephew to the store to buy alcohol, or to purchase drugs.
  • Providing him or her with money to help cover bills and other expenses.
  • Watching the children when it is clear that your family member is not sober enough to do it.
  • Offering a place to stay so that your niece or nephew doesn't have to live on the streets.
  • Running errands, such as purchasing groceries or bringing in food from a restaurant on a regular basis.

It's understandable that you're concerned about your niece or nephew's well-being, and no one wants to see someone they love homeless or struggling to find food to eat. However, unless your family member suffers through some of the consequences of addiction, it's highly unlikely that they will be ready to get help to recover.

Talking with Your Niece or Nephew About Drug and Alcohol Rehab

One of the most difficult conversations you might ever have is when you sit down to talk with your niece or nephew about going to alcohol or drug treatment. It's so crucial for you to be prepared for this conversation because most of the time, these talks do not go well.

Choose a time when your loved one will be sober and available to listen to you. Talking to him or her during or right after a binge isn't going to help either of you. Be honest about how you feel. Tell your loved one that you're concerned, and list out the reasons why drug and alcohol rehab should be an option they consider. Whatever you do, don't try to make this talk easier on your loved one. Don't hold back and be brutally honest about the need for help. Your niece or nephew needs to hear the truth, and because they trust you, it's better to hear it from you.

Prepare yourself for some type of retaliation or anger after you say everything you need to say. Your niece or nephew will probably be very upset, but that is just the addiction talking. Confronting a family member about an addiction is never easy, and it often ends with yelling, screaming and crying. You may hear things like:

  • "You obviously don't love me anymore."
  • "You don't care about what happens to me."
  • "If you really loved me you would support me in my decisions."
  • "You don't know what it's like to be me and go through what I go through."
  • "I'll change as soon as things get better, but I can't right now."

Discussing Drug and Alcohol Addiction With Their Parents

For many aunts and uncles who go through this type of situation with their nieces or nephews, the parents have no idea about what is happening. It's up to you to bring it to their attention. They need to know, and it's better to hear it from a family member. Whatever you do, don't put off having this conversation. You can enlist their help in assisting your niece or nephew to get into rehab as soon as possible.

Choose a relatively low stress time to have this conversation with the parents. Let them know that you need to talk with them about something very serious that has you quite concerned. You may not want to divulge all of the details about the addiction, but it's OK to list out some of the signs you've been noticing, and whether or not their child has admitted to it.

Setting Up an Intervention: If All Else Fails, Help is Available

If you run into a situation where your niece or nephew is not willing to get professional help for the addiction, it's time to take things to the next level. Intervention services are available through many drug and alcohol treatment centers, and this is a meeting that can make a real difference.

You will invite many close friends and family members to the meeting, and you'll take turns sharing with your niece or nephew about your concerns. It can actually make a big difference for the addict to see so many people in one room expressing how they feel, and quite often, these meetings are moving enough to encourage the individual to get help immediately. If that is what your niece or nephew wants to do, they'll be able to go to drug or alcohol rehab right away.

We Can Help Your Niece or Nephew Get Substance Abuse Treatment

Your niece or nephew is most likely among the people you love the most in the world. It's heartbreaking for you to find out that he or she is struggling with an addiction, and knowing this information can certainly put you in a difficult position. More than anything, you want to be there to offer support, but it's so important for the type of support that you offer to be helpful and not harmful in the long run.

Here at Northpoint Recovery, it doesn't matter if your niece or nephew is using drugs or alcohol, because we can help with both. If you're in need of intervention services, we can provide those for you as well. We have an excellent success rate, so if your niece or nephew is younger and would benefit from young adult rehab, or if they are older and would fit in well with our traditional drug and alcohol treatment program, please know that we're here to provide your family with the services that you need.

Is it time for you to seek addiction treatment for your niece or nephew? We'd like to assist you with everything you need. Please contact us today to learn more.