It may surprise you to know that approximately one in ten Americans have recovered from a substance use disorder. That means the chances are high that you know someone who has gone through or is currently living in recovery.

Rebuilding a life without drugs or alcohol can be a difficult process, so it is important to show loved ones support throughout treatment. However, due to the stigma around addiction and recovery, many don’t openly share about the battle they are facing and it can be hard to know how to best support loved ones in the process.

If your loved one is starting treatment for a drug or alcohol use disorder you may play a key role in their recovery journey. Here’s some advice on how to support a loved one on the road to recovery.

Express Your Support

A few simple words of encouragement can go a long way. Show your loved one support by expressing to them how proud you are of their recovery journey. 

Don’t feel awkward asking about your loved one’s experiences or how they’re feeling. Doing so will allow you both to express yourselves and to feel more comfortable.

Check In On Them

Checking in on how your loved one is doing helps them to understand they have your support. Ask open-ended questions and let them know they can be honest with you about their recovery. Actively listen so they feel safe and heard while sharing their experience with you.

If your loved one shares something with you, check back in on the matter. This shows them that you were actively listening and that you truly care. Even if you may not agree with them, affirm your loved one’s feelings and allow them to express themself.

However, you don’t have to dance around the issue. Just be sure to communicate directly and frame your thoughts in a loving and supportive way. For example, if you’re concerned that they are using again, instead of accusing them you can ask, “I noticed you haven’t seemed as happy recently, did something change?”

Be Non-Judgemental

Avoid using words that label or sound judgemental. Calling people in recovery “addicts” can make the person feel targeted or ashamed. Instead, try referring to them as “someone recovering from a substance use disorder” or a “person in recovery”.

Individuals in recovery have dealt with a great deal of shame and guilt in their past and judgemental verbiage may trigger negative feelings they may still be holding onto about themself. Remember, any progress is progress. No matter how far they are in their journey they have come a long way.

Reduce Friction

Stress can contribute to a drug or alcohol relapse or heighten underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Avoid unnecessary arguments and try to stay away from unwanted topics of discussion. Focus on trying to spend meaningful time together and cultivate a positive environment.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Having a healthy life all starts with a healthy body. Encourage them to participate in self-care practices like eating healthy meals or exercising. This will help improve overall health and if you join will allow you to become their accountability partner in achieving these goals.

Practice Patience

It may take them a while to open up in fear of judgment, and know that nobody changes overnight. Even if your loved one is in recovery, they might still engage in unhealthy behaviors or make poor decisions. Recovery is not just abstaining from drugs and alcohol, true healing and growth take time.

If your loved one relapses show them love, concern, support, and grace. Always practice patience so they know a mistake doesn’t define them. Setbacks happen, and that’s when they’ll need you most.

Educate Yourself on Addiction and Recovery

Addiction is not a matter of willpower or morals, but a disease that disrupts the part of the brain responsible for impulse control. Learning about the illness of addiction will help you to understand what your loved one is experiencing, spot signs of potential relapse before it occurs, and be able to address them with compassion and understanding. 

It may also be helpful to learn what problems your loved one could be facing. If they haven’t opened up to you about what they’re experiencing, it may help you to know what questions to ask and specific ways you can offer to help. These problems could include housing, legal issues, domestic abuse, etc.

Reduce Triggers

Avoid keeping alcohol or drugs in the home or any social settings with potential temptation. Depending on the level of the disorder, it may be helpful to also practice abstaining from participating in any substances.

If you have prescription medications at home, keep them out of sight and locked up. Help your loved one avoid social situations where there is a risk of relapse or go with them to support them and keep them accountable.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Offer to help where you can, but resist the urge to babysit. It is important to be mindful of enabling or co-dependent behaviors. This shields your loved one from the consequences of their addiction, making you inadvertently part of the problem.

Instead of just doing the work for them, ask if you can help in specific or supportive ways. For example, if they have an upcoming appointment instead of driving instead offer to help them look up the bus schedule. 

Be sure to also set boundaries that protect your well-being. Having a loved one in recovery can take a toll on your finances. Be sure to set boundaries that protect your finances by avoiding paying off their debts or giving your loved one money.

While your loved one needs your support, be sure to remove yourself if it becomes necessary. To be there for them, you must first take care of your mental health. Setting healthy boundaries may be difficult to maintain but is best for all parties involved in the long haul.

Participate in Recovery Groups

Recovery is a lifelong process that changes many aspects of one’s life, including the groups of people they spend time with. Encouraging them to participate in help groups, addiction recovery treatment, therapy, and other recovery-related outlets will provide them with a larger support system and connect them with others who may be having similar experiences.
If your loved one is looking for more support on the road to recovery, Healthy Life Recovery is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our outpatient recovery programs in San Diego, California.


“You Can’t Force a Loved One into Addiction Recovery.” WebMD, WebMD, 

“How to Support an Alcoholic in Recovery.” WebMD, WebMD,

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