Relatives Will Not Communicate

My Relatives Do Not Reach Out to My Addicted Daughter

Dear Katie,
My daughter has struggled with addiction on and off for a number of years. When she is actively using substances, my relatives seem to shut down communication with her. I just don’t understand it. Isn’t this the time when my daughter needs the most support? —Amy

Dear Amy,
I can understand the frustration you may feel. You want your daughter to feel loved and supported during her crisis. I will tell you this: people tend to shy away from things or topics that are unknown, uncomfortable, or even taboo. This is the whispered disease, the one that many do not talk about. It’s easy to communicate when things are going well; that is “comfortable” for people. Yet, in crisis, many do not know what to say, and it is “easier” to say nothing.

I can also understand how you may want a break from being the only one who is in touch. It can be overwhelming, and in many ways, you may feel a sense of responsibility to advocate for her to the extended family. If they ask you how she is doing, maybe reply that they could ask her directly, and she would love to hear from them. That may open up a healthy conversation and an opportunity for you to educate them on how to communicate.

It’s also a sad reality that others may not want an addicted person around. Maybe they have been wronged in some way, due to her addiction, and are uncomfortable. It’s something we have to come to terms with. We are the addicted person’s parents and family, and it is unconditional love that keeps us by their side. It is not wrong for friends or relatives to have their own feelings and pain surrounding this situation. Some families in this situation may give great support to the addicted person and stick by their side through thick and thin. But some people decide they can’t handle the trouble the person struggling brings to them, and they make the decision to break from them. We, as families, get to make the choice, and there is no wrong choice—either one is OK. You have to do what’s best for you and yours.

Warm wishes,

Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.

Katie Donovan is a family, life, and relationship coach; keynote speaker; and writer with a passion for empowering women. She has been interviewed on ABC, NBC, and Fox Sports and featured in cover stories in Time and Money magazines. Katie’s award-winning blog,, reached over a million views and was seen in 146 countries within thirty days of its inception and has been syndicated in over thirty publications, including USA Today and Disney’s blog Babble.

Are you struggling to get your inner sparkle back? Have the relationships with your partner, family, or friends been affected? Ask me anything! You can send a confidential email to with Shift Happens in the subject line.

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  1. Thank you Katie. I like your insightful answer. As a Mother of a addicted son, I can relate to this other Mother.

  2. It is possibly easier for extended family to back off from enabling and codependent behaviours during active addiction. How is trying to manage other people’s relationships with our addicted loved ones not another form of codependency?

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