5 Ways to Support Someone in Recovery

September is National Recovery Month, a good time to celebrate the gains made by those who have made a commitment to recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that the recovery process is best supported through relationships and social networks, often achieved by family members becoming champions of their loved one’s recovery. SAMHSA adds that the support of peers and friends is likewise crucial in helping recovering individuals achieve success.

Here are five ways that those close to a recovering individual can aid them in their journey to sobriety.

1. Stay Connected

As they begin their recovery, individuals typically experience wide-ranging emotions such as fear, anxiety, shame, guilt. In the early days of rehab, they also might be feeling a sense of isolation from those they love. You can counter these feelings by staying connected with the individual, assuring them that they have not been abandoned during this critical time of their recovery.

You may be unsure if you can visit someone in rehab. While it is true that there are some periods of time — for instance, during detox — when visitors are not allowed, most rehab centers allow visitors and even encourage them. When you are unable to visit, checking in regularly by text, phone, or a video call is also an effective way to say, “I care.”

After the recovering individual is no longer in rehab, stay connected by asking them to join you for activities to replace their previous addictive behavior. Invite them to a movie. Play board games. Go hiking or jogging or play golf or tennis together — any of which will help not only with their emotional well-being but with their physical health as well.

2. Be Nonjudgmental

Instead of admonishing the recovering individual for their past mistakes, be encouraging and help them focus on creating a brighter, more positive future. Even if they backslide, don’t judge. Instead, encourage them to get back on the path to recovery and let them know you’ll continue to be there for them.

Being nonjudgmental also means giving the recovering individual a sounding board, letting them confide in you their innermost fears and secrets without fear of reprimands. Having the opportunity to express their feelings is an important part of the recovery process and can potentially help them achieve a breakthrough that will assist them in achieving long-term sobriety.

3. Educate Yourself

Learn everything you can about what causes addiction and how to overcome it. Understanding that addiction is a disease, not a character flaw, will likely increase your empathy for what your family member or friend is going through.

As part of your education process, learn the signs that could indicate a return of addiction. Potential warning signs of relapse include:

  • Secretive behavior
  • Being more isolated and less communicative
  • Finding excuses to miss meetings
  • Renewing associations with individuals who contributed to past addictive behavior
  • Lack of interest in activities that have been helpful in recovering, such as exercise or hobbies

If you see signs of relapse in your family member or friend, discuss your concerns with them with the hope of getting them back on the right path. Work to get them back into treatment, if needed, to overcome their setbacks and achieve a lasting recovery.

4. Lend a Helping Hand

There are innumerable ways to help individuals who are in recovery, such as providing childcare, watching their pets, watering their plants, mowing their lawns, or bringing over dinner when they’re too busy or unable to cook for themselves.

If you feel it’s appropriate, you may wish to offer to help them out financially. Many individuals are unable to work during recovery and often have added expenses, so they may be especially grateful for such an offer.

If you don’t know what you can do to help, ask. Often, the individual may be reluctant to reach out for assistance, so putting out a general offer to do whatever is necessary is often the best way to help.

5. Be There for the Long Haul

Recovery doesn’t happen overnight and in fact is a years-long process. Unfortunately, relapses are common and can happen months or even years after the initial recovery period.

Make a commitment to be a positive force in your family member’s or friend’s life. Knowing they have your support, through their highs and their lows, will help improve the probability of making their addiction a thing of the past.

Beachside Rehab is a partner in your loved one’s recovery process. Contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 to discuss our dual diagnosis treatment.


Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash