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Updated on September 26, 2022

3 C's Of Addiction Recovery

What are the 3 C’s of Addiction Recovery?

The 3 C’s of addiction recovery are tools that help the family members and friends of people with substance use disorders (SUD) deal with their feelings of helplessness.

Watching someone you care about struggle with addiction is one of the most difficult things a person can face. Many people with addicted loved ones find themselves wondering if they are to blame. They might try to control the situation or force their loved ones to get treatment. 

Unfortunately, these things only hinder the person’s recovery.

The 3 C’s are a simple tool that remind loved ones of addicted individuals of their role. 

The three C’s are as follows:


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1. I Didn’t Cause It

It’s important for people to remember that they did not cause their loved one’s addiction, even if they are being blamed for it. You might have made mistakes – everyone does in relationships – but your mistakes did not cause an addiction to develop. 

Unless you pay for their drugs or alcohol or put these items in their hands, you are not to blame. And even then, you cannot force someone to ingest a substance. Regardless of whether they cast blame on you, nobody causes a loved one’s addiction.

Accepting that you are not the cause of the addiction helps you release feelings of guilt. It can also help your loved one learn to take responsibility for his or her actions.

Additionally, loved ones need to realize that nobody else is the cause of the addiction, either. 

It’s tempting to look for someone to blame when someone you love struggles with addiction. The truth is, no single person can cause an addiction. The only causes of addiction are:

  • Biological factors
  • Psychological factors
  • Social experiences

2. I Can’t Cure It

There is no cure for addiction. However, there is treatment available, and people can have successful, long-term recoveries. 

Addiction is a chronic brain disease, and it must be treated just like any other disease. 

You can only provide support. There is no such thing as loving someone, bribing someone, or reasoning them out of their addiction. You can only support them if they are seeking treatment.

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3. I Can’t Control It

Loved ones have no control over their family member or friend’s addiction. Having an addiction means having little to no ability to think rationally. Not seeking help even when it is obvious that help is needed is a symptom of addiction. 

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to force someone into rehabilitation. They must make this decision on their own. All you can do is support them, encourage them, and respect your boundaries. Even if they cast blame on you, it is part of their addiction and you can’t force them to change. 

What can you do?

You can’t cure your loved one or go through recovery for them. They must do the work. 

However, you can help them find a comprehensive addiction treatment program and offer the support and encouragement needed to begin the program. You can also be open-minded about participating in family therapy during your loved one’s recovery. 

Addiction affects more than just the addicted individual. The odds of a successful recovery increase when those closest to someone with SUD are willing to participate in therapy.

Purpose of the 3 C’s in Recovery

The purpose of the 3 C’s is to help an addict’s loved ones understand their role. Too many people assume they have control over their loved one’s behavior and that they can “cure” them.

The three C’s give loved ones a path to understanding that they cannot:

  • Make someone quit using drugs, alcohol, or any other addictive substance. It must be the person with the SUD’s decision.
  • Do the work for them. There’s no way for a loved one to do the hard work of recovery on behalf of someone else, nor should anyone try. The journey to sobriety is an important part of succeeding, no matter how difficult it might be. It’s also impossible for loved ones to prevent relapse.
  • Allow an addicted person’s behavior to violate their boundaries. Designing and implementing boundaries is an important step for loved ones who care about a person with an SUD. Enforcing those boundaries is equally important. Disregarding boundaries just supports the addiction.

It might feel as if there isn’t much you can do when you love someone with an addiction. But there are things that can be done to help you and enhance your ability to help your loved one. 

For example:

  • Educate yourself about addiction in general and your loved one’s specific addiction. Many rehabilitation programs offer education programs for family members. If this isn’t an option, consider attending an Al-Anon meeting or contacting an addiction specialist for information about resources for loved ones of addicts.
  • Prioritize self-care. Any time a loved one is dealing with illness, it’s easy to put them first. Unfortunately, not taking care of yourself doesn’t do anyone any good. Taking care of yourself and making healthy decisions for yourself is an important part of being able to provide support and encouragement to your recovering loved one.
  • Talk to a trusted confidant. If you aren’t comfortable participating in a support group, consider enrolling in one-on-one counseling to help manage the feelings you have regarding your loved one’s addiction. If this is possible, find someone you trust in which to confide, but make sure they are comfortable with the discussion before speaking to them.
  • Encourage your addicted loved one if they are seeking treatment. Recognize their achievements and offer to help in practical ways (if needed). Also, offer to keep them company if they are experiencing temptation and give them space to manage their situation.

Remember, it’s impossible to control your loved one’s addiction behavior or their treatment. Once someone has decided to seek treatment, step back and allow them to walk their path. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t be supportive, but you shouldn’t be controlling. And sometimes, trying to control your loved one can negatively affect treatment results.

Your role in your loved one’s recovery is to offer support and encouragement. This is true even if it’s difficult to do so because you want to do more. 

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Ready to Start the Road to Recovery?  

There are many different treatment options available for people with SUD. These include:

  • Behavioral therapy to help an addicted person change their behavior through counseling.
  • Medications that reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings when the risk of relapse is high.
  • Support groups, including different 12-step and peer support programs.
  • One-on-one counseling that helps people identify their triggers for using drugs or alcohol.
  • Family counseling that helps members relate to each other and support their loved one’s substance use problem.
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  1. Al-Anon Family Groups.” Al-Anon Family Groups, 2017.
  2. Jêdrzejczak, Marian. “Family and Environmental Factors of Drug Addiction among Young Recruits.” Military Medicine, vol. 170, no. 8, Aug. 2005, pp. 688–690.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Family-Based Approaches.”, 2018.
  4. Purdue News Service. “Alcoholism in the Family Affects How Your Brain Switches between Active and Resting States.”
  5. Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, 2017.
  6. Barber Ph.D., Nigel. “Do Parents Cause Drug Addictions in Teens? | Psychology Today.”
  7. IFAS Communications. “When Your Partner Has an Addiction.”
  8. These Are the 3 C’s of Addiction Recovery.” WebMD.

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