When a family member is struggling with addiction or substance-use disorder, it impacts the entire family. This type of stress may impact your ability to fly safely—even if you feel that you can handle the situation, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. It can be difficult to recognize this type of stress and its impact on our ability to perform our duties safely. If you are dealing with a family member who is struggling with addiction or substance-use disorder, be aware of the resources available to help you, including ALPA Aeromedical and your airline’s Pilot Assistance and HIMS committees.
To help you assess your fitness to fly, the Aeronautical Information Manual recommends pilots use the IMSAFE checklist. Brief yourself on:
Each of these elements can affect a pilot’s safety and performance.
We recommend contacting Pilot Peer Support or ALPA Aeromedical (303-341-4435) for a confidential consultation if you are struggling with your own mental health.
Pilot Peer Support (PPS) connects ALPA members with trained pilot peers to talk about any personal or professional problems you may be experiencing. PPS volunteers listen and offer confidential, nonjudgmental support. Speak with a PPS peer about any concerns that may threaten your medical certificate, career, and life. Peers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Contact PPS.
ALPA Aeromedical provides free, confidential consultations with medical professionals to all ALPA members in good standing. Contact ALPA Aeromedical (also known as the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, or AMAS) at 303-341-4435 Monday through Friday 0830 to 1600 MT or visit the AMAS website.
Support, however, doesn’t stop with you—when your family member is struggling, the resources and support networks shift. Resources and support are available through the ALPA HIMS Program Family Support.
For many, finding a credible treatment center for your loved one is a top priority. You will want to thoroughly research treatment centers to find the facility that is the best fit for them. Some useful links below may help your search.
Remember, it is important to be aware of your own well-being and monitor your fitness for duty. Caring for a family member with addiction can result in health problems of our own, so use the resources mentioned above as well as your own doctor’s experience to help you, and your family members, remain healthy.
Leaves and Time Off
Refer to your company pilot benefits information or collective bargaining agreement or contact your flight manager. Also see sections on this website for FMLA, State Sick, and State Paid Family Leave.
Pass Privileges and Jumpseat
You may be able to use pass travel and jumpseat privileges during leaves related to caring for your family member with addiction—check with your company. However, the jumpseat is not available when on sick leave or personal leave. Contact your flight manager or company to request a jumpseat while on a leave and verify pass policy.
Most company Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) programs will have referrals to vetted addiction and recovery centers and programs. Contact your company EAP for more information.
External Resources: Treatment Centers
The following resources can help you find a treatment center that fits your loved one. Available treatment centers vary.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to addiction and mental health. The search feature on their website can aid you in finding treatment centers that meet certain criteria in your area. Learn more.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
MAT, including opioid treatment programs, combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance-use disorders. Learn more.
Mental Health Resources
Living with addiction in the family can be emotionally challenging and sometimes result in short-term psychological distress. Support groups, including 12-Step support groups, are available when considering your own fitness to fly—free groups for family and friends of alcoholics and addicts, modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Each program’s website offers information and links to local support groups.
The following groups focus on specific substances, but they all offer common strategies for support:
- Al-Anon (alcohol)
- Co-Anon (cocaine)
- Nar-Anon (narcotics)
- Celebrate Recovery (Christian-based)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
A significant percentage of those struggling with substance-use disorders have a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental illness. Local NAMI chapters nationwide offer free, evidence-based classes and support groups for family members of loved ones living with mental illness.
Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL)
PAL groups typically meet weekly to educate and support family and friends of children with substance-use disorders. Learn more.
Partnership for Drug Free Kids
This program provides a hotline and parent coaching. The partnership has a free parent coaching program that connects parents with a trained parent coach. Learn more.