Sometimes the hardest phrase to utter is “I need help!”  Why are these 3 little words so hard for us to say?  For many of us, calling attention to an area of our life that we can’t master makes us feel that we are failures.  I’ve found that in life the opposite is true.  It takes strength and courage to utter that small phrase.

As a family member of someone with a substance abuse problem, asking for help can sometimes make us feel selfish.  We say to ourselves, I’m not the one with the problem, so I need to put that thought aside. In reality, addiction affects the loved ones just as much and in various ways.  Without proper self-care those effects can stick with a family member far longer than they realize.

For instance, have you heard the safety advice on an airplane?  They always tell you to place the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then help your loved one.  This is sound advice, because if your ability to breathe is compromised how can you have the strength to help those around you?  The same is true when a loved one is suffering from substance abuse or mental health diagnosis.  In the midst of this it can feel hard to breathe, whether from fear of the unknown, anger, guilt and possibly even shame.  It’s important to stop and secure your own “oxygen mask;” this can mean looking for a support group for families, an individual therapy session, or just reaching out to others to share your needs.

Remember life is meant to be shared, and this isn’t limited to the good times.  Especially in this age of living online, we look at snapshots of another person’s supposedly “perfect” life and think we are alone in times of crisis.  You are not alone in this.  If you are overwhelmed and need a place to start, head over to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website at There are resources for and you and your loved one to start the search for Help.