People affected by another person’s drug and alcohol use

Carers Leeds offer support to people affected by the drug and/or alcohol use of someone they know, whether that is a family member, a loved one or a friend. We refer to this group as ‘concerned others’.

Concerned others can face a number of issues as a consequence of another person’s substance use, such as stigma, loneliness and conflict within the family. These consequences can have a direct impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of concerned others, often increasing levels of stress and anxiety. Supporting a family member with addiction can also significantly impact on a family’s finances.

We are here to provide information and support to help concerned others make changes to improve their wellbeing. We also know that changes made by concerned others can often lead to positive changes in the substance user.

Carers Leeds works with unpaid carers supporting someone with an illness, disability, mental health issue or substance use issue. Because many friends/family of someone with a substance use issue do not consider themselves as ‘carers’, we refer to this group as Concerned Others.

When we talk about someone with a substance use issue, we are thinking about someone with a problematic relationship with drug and/or alcohol. This could be someone actively using or someone who has had difficulties in the past. We recognise that although someone may have stopped using, it does not make all the challenges disappear straight away. We also know that not everyone who is using substances sees their use as a problem or wants to seek help. The substance user does not need to be seeking help for us to support you.

Carers Leeds does not work directly with the person using substances. Forward Leeds is the drug and alcohol service for Leeds and they can be contacted on 0113 8872477.

Carers Leeds offers information, advice and guidance on how to manage the impact of someone else’s substance use. This could be a one-off phone call or face-to-face session to resolve a specific query, or could involve up to six sessions of structured one-to-one support.

Carers Leeds also offers regular support groups, offering Concerned Others an opportunity to share their experiences with others who can relate to their situation in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Please call the Carers Leeds office for information on upcoming groups and how to access them.

Information sessions and workshops are organised on an ad hoc basis, dependent on need.

We also offer the opportunity to meet with a volunteer who has lived experience of addiction and can offer their insight into what addiction, and recovery, was like for them and their family.

We know that having a friend/family member who uses substances is highly stressful and can have a negative impact on your health. Some of the common challenges that people talk about are:

  • Poor sleep
  • Constant worry / anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt and responsibility
  • Feelings of shame
  • Financial impact
  • Anger and frustration
  • Isolation
  • Impact on work and many more

Concerned Others often neglect their own health and wellbeing in favour of the person using substances. This can be draining, leading to people becoming physically and mentally exhausted. Carers Leeds hopes to be able to support you to manage these feelings and experiences.

Carers Leeds Drug and Alcohol team work on a number of principles, including:

  • We acknowledge that we cannot stop someone from using drugs and/or alcohol
  • However, we can change the way we respond to our friend/family member’s substance use
  • We can change our coping strategies
  • We can put in boundaries to protect ourselves
  • We can focus on our own recovery even if our friend/family member continues using drugs and/or alcohol

Through one-to-one sessions and group support, we can explore different coping strategies, look at how to set effective boundaries and how to maintain our own wellbeing. We can also offer a safe and supportive environment to discuss thought, feelings and emotions, without worrying about stigma or shame.

This is Sarah, a volunteer with Carers Leeds. She is in recovery for alcohol use and will meet with our concerned others in groups and 1:1 sessions to discuss her experience to offer perspective from the cared for’s side. As we are currently unable to meet face to face due to Covid-19, Sarah has made this video to share some key topics with you.

Many people we work with feel a level of resentment or anger that they have to get support, even though it may not be their behaviours which are causing the problems. While we know that we cannot control someone else’s behaviours, we can control how those behaviours impact on us. Accessing support can help you cope better with the impact of someone else’s difficult behaviours and help set boundaries of what you expect from the other person. We also know that changing your behaviour may support the person using substances to make positive changes themselves.

If you would like to access our service you can contact the carers advice line on 0113 380 4300.

If you would like to refer someone to our service, you can do this online via this link.

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Carers Leeds supports unpaid carers:

Carers Advice Line: 0113 380 4300
Carers Advice Email: