7 Ways To Help a Recovering Addict or Alcoholic

Addiction recovery is not a walk in the park. Addiction is a serious illness that takes a toll on both the addict and his or her loved ones. Most people think that detox and rehab are magic cures to addiction, and life after rehab will dramatically and immediately improve. Yes, rehab is an essential step towards recovery, but it is not the end of the process.

There are many aspects to addiction recovery that many people living with addicts do not expect. Loved ones often find themselves disappointed by a recovering addict and the progress that they have or haven’t made.  For addicts, staying sober takes a ton of commitment and determination, and recovery can be a lifetime process.

It is definitely best to avoid disappointment, because the recovering addict will sense that disappointment, which can make them feel hopeless and more likely to relapse. So, here’s a 7-step guide to help you and your loved one stay on track through recovery.

How To Help A Recovering Addict


  • Don’t Judge: Many addicts already feel bad about being hooked on substances, so don’t make things worse with bad energy or criticism. Now is not the time to nag, preach, or lecture the person about how disappointed you are, how things could have been better, or how wrong they are.


Avoid using hurtful labels that remind them of their past actions or make them feel like a burden to you. They may end up feeling so frustrated and helpless that they turn back to the substance they’re trying to avoid.


  • Prepare for Extended Problems: Addiction can be stopped, but sobriety will not solve some other lasting problems that remain as a result of the choices that your loved one made while he or she was ‘sick.’


It is common for families of addicts to face financial problems, especially as the recovering addict tries to rebuild their career or pay off addiction-related debts such as DUI expenses or rehab and medication bills.

Health problems caused by addiction might also come into the picture, and you may have to deal with psychological issues like depression or mood swings.

Relationship problems can be the most painful of all. It can take years to rebuild trust, and your relationship will not be magically restored. You just need to be there and give the best support you can.

Another thing to keep in mind is that relapse is always a possibility, even after many years. Understanding these facts and preparing for them (just in case) will lessen their impact and make it easier to deal with them if they do arise.


  • Create a Substance-Free Environment: As much as you can, keep any tempting substance far away from a recovering addict that can lure them into a relapse.


Don’t be that person that throws a party to celebrate the recovery of a loved one from alcohol addiction, and everyone has a bottle of beer in their hands. This can create temptation that should be avoided.


  • Educate Yourself and Stay Involved: Addiction is a disease of the brain, not a moral failure. So, you’ll never really understand it if you don’t get professionally schooled about the intricate details. It may not be a degree-awarding endeavor, but you and your loved one will certainly be the better for it.


You cannot really support someone else unless you have the proper support for yourself. Many outpatient family therapy programs are available for family members to learn intervention skills that will prove useful during stressful and trigger situations. They’ll also teach healthy communication skills and ways to express feelings and needs without projecting blame.


  • Use Care Recovery Services: Care and recovery services will help a person and their family in coordinating their care and setting recovery goals. Helping a recovering addict stay true to their goals may be super difficult, and most people end up bending under pressure. Care recovery services monitor the recovery process and help the person with coping skills that will help them ease back into normal social life.



  • Reduce Stress and Family Friction: Stress within the family can encourage relapses in a recovering addict. It can be hard because everyone is most likely tense and little things can spark conflicts among family members, but you can reduce tension by letting one another know how much you care and spending positive, rewarding time together.


In instances where the stress is unavoidably present, you can employ some of the following stress relief techniques, individually or as a family:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Artistic expression


  • Encourage Your Loved One to Create a Sober Circle: As much as you may want to, you cannot choose new friends for your loved one that is recovering. What you can do is encourage the person to reconnect with sober friends. The less time that is spent with people who use alcohol or drugs, and more time with people who support sobriety will help on the sobriety journey a great deal.


Stay on track by asking questions and discussing new ways to meet potential sober friends. Just make sure that you don’t become annoying or overbearing with this, or your loved one will develop new, sneaky ways to roll with the old pack again.

What Should I Do if There’s a Relapse?

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, relapses happen. But you have to be prepared to suck it up and start the process again.  A relapse does not mean that treatment failed or that the person is a failure, it just means that you need to readjust the treatment plan or try another one. Like all good things, sobriety and staying clean just don’t come easy.

Here are some useful tips to get through relapses and help your loved one get back on track again:

  • Express your concerns in a kind, caring, and non-judgmental way. No yelling or crying or any other emotional outbursts.
  • Encourage them to contact their therapist or contact their therapist for them.
  • Encourage them to attend a support group meeting.

Overall, patience is key, recovery is a trying process. Hopefully, with these tips we’ve shared will make the recovery process easier for everyone involved.