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Living with drugs and alcohol

Living with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use can be exhausting and challenging.

You may have had to cope with many of the following difficulties.

Fear: You may have had to live with the fear of something awful happening. You may have been expecting or fearing your loved one’s death or they may have had previous overdoses. Living with fear places you under constant stress. A death can still be a horrible shock, even when it is expected.

Family conflict: Living with someone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol puts a strain on the extended family. Your lives may have become chaotic and unpredictable. You may have often been in conflict with the person who has died. There may have been family arguments about how to cope, and about how much to help an addicted person, financially, practically and emotionally. There may also have been arguments about how much information to share with extended family or friends. This conflict can carry on after a death [1.10]. 

Health implications: Living under stress can have an effect on your health and mental wellbeing. You may also have turned to alcohol and drugs yourself, which can bring additional health problems.

Crime and illegal acts: Your loved one may have been involved in crime to support their use of drugs (less common with alcohol addiction). You may have found yourself involved in illegal acts, directly or indirectly. Your family may already have had to cope with the police or criminal justice system being involved.

Stigma and isolation: If others were aware of your friend or family member’s use of drugs or alcohol, you may have felt judged [1.6]. This can be both real and imagined, and can mean you are already isolated from some people who might have been sources of help.

Financial difficulties: Your family may have been put under financial strain through your loved one’s use of drugs and alcohol. Living with debt is common.

Unanswered questions: You may have had to live with unanswered questions about your loved one’s use of drugs and alcohol. It can be difficult to understand addiction [1.4] and how someone can appear to put alcohol or drugs above friends and family.

Everyone’s experience is different, and you may have experienced all or none of the above.

Each situation can have an effect on how you grieve after someone dies, and make coping more difficult afterwards.

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