Supporting Your Loved One in Recovery

Healthy ways for you to help

What is recovery?

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong journey of growth and development. Detoxification and treatment are only the first steps. Physical detox alone will not help your loved one stay clean and sober. Recovery is an ongoing process: typically formal treatment followed by continued support from a sponsor, counselor, physician, Twelve Step group members, family members, and clean and sober friends. To maintain lifelong abstinence, your loved one must develop new problem-solving skills for stressful situations, and must be prepared to work hard on personal growth and spirituality, dealing with any emotional or physiological triggers that could lead back to old ways of coping—by drinking and using.

How can you help your loved one in recovery?

  • Encourage your loved one to work the Twelve Step program and to rely on the support of a Higher Power. No one should have to recover alone.
  • Be totally honest with yourself about the severity of your loved one's use. We often don't want others to know about our family's deteriorating situation—but when we do break our silence; we may find others who have been similarly affected.
  • Stop enabling the alcoholic or addict by allowing him or her to continue to use without consequences. Learn to let go and to detach with love.
  • Help your loved one plan for or avoid high-risk situations such as conflicts with others, social or peer pressure and environments where alcohol or other drugs are used. Even celebrations can trigger a relapse if they are associated with drinking or using.
  • Don't keep alcohol or other drugs in the home—including prescription medicines. You may have to keep these in a safe place or carry them with you.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. Consider joining a group such as Al-Anon, a Twelve Step fellowship to help families and friends of alcoholics, or Nar-Anon, a fellowship for peopled affected by someone else's drug use.

Habits of Successful Sobriety

Help your loved one practice these habits, which will help protect his or her ongoing recovery:

  • Forget willpower—embrace your Higher Power. Accept the fact that addiction is a disease. Your loved one can't use willpower to control even limited use of alcohol or other drugs. Abstinence is the only solution.
  • Use the problem-solving skills learned in treatment to stabilize your emotions when encountering life's crises.
  • Learn to identify and manage stress or any co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression, which can threaten recovery.
  • Build a sobriety-based lifestyle. Embrace clean and sober friends and engage in healthy recreation.
  • Learn to let go of self-defeating behaviors. Identify and snuff out "addictive thinking," such as "I can have just one drink and then I'll stop." While your loved one was using, he or she invented many ways to deny and justify using while trying to avoid negative consequences. These same justifications can threaten recovery unless he or she is prepared to replace them with the early lessons learned from the Twelve Steps such as, "You are powerless against addiction, addiction is a disease that requires a spiritual solution, and you don't have all the answers."
  • Be prepared for the lifelong process of continued personal growth and development. Continually examine your goals and values and make improvements that will give you more life satisfaction.
  • Don't get lazy with your recovery—it takes focus to abstain for a lifetime. Remember that any use of alcohol or other drugs will reactivate the progression of the disease of addiction. Stay focused. It's your life.

How can you help your loved one deal with the "HALT" triggers (hungry, angry, lonely, tired)?

These triggers, if not handled well, can lead to a return to chemical use:

  • Suggest starting a consistent, healthy meal schedule.
  • To help handle anger, encourage your loved one to state feelings rather than acting out frustrations.
  • Help with loneliness by encouraging new friendships with sober individuals.
  • Discuss establishing a sleep routine to prevent tiredness.
  • Encourage prayer, meditation, and the practice of relaxation techniques.
  • Support him or her in a healthy exercise program.

Recovery Action Step

Help your loved one plan for sticky situations:

  • Together, make a list of the potential situations most likely to cause relapse: perhaps work parties, celebrations, or going out with certain friends.
  • Pair each problem with a solution, creating a coping strategy for that high-risk situation. When the list is finished, make plans to learn new skills, develop new ways of thinking, and take concrete steps to keep life in balance.

Your loved one should discuss this plan with his or her sponsor and/or recovery group.

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