How to Help a Loved One During Recovery

Ways you can be supportive on the road to recovery

Imperative, Compassionate Support

In September we celebrated National Recovery Month, a time to help raise awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and to celebrate those in recovery from addiction. In the United States alone, over 22 million people struggle daily with alcohol and substance addiction. Alcohol or substance addiction can be a destructive illness that keeps the individual from living the life they want.

What this 22 million number doesn’t include are the over 100 million friends and family members who also suffer. Substance abuse not only affects the users, but also the user’s loved ones. Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is possible with consistent treatment and compassionate support – this is where the role that friends and family play in the recovery journey is imperative.

Ways to support someone you love who is in recovery

Let’s take a look at some ways that you can be a supportive friend/family member during your loved ones recovery, while also taking care of yourself.  

  1. Take care of yourself 
    It can be incredibly painful to watch a loved one struggle with substance or alcohol addiction. In order to be there for them, you must be there for yourself. Seeking therapy, support groups, or simply ensuring you have a support network will be crucial.
  2. Educate yourself about addiction and recovery
    Spend the time to truly understand the disease of addiction. Many harmful stigmas exist around addiction and recovery, taking the time to properly educate yourself on the topic will equip you with a better toolkit to support your loved one through recovery.
  3. Vocalize your support and create space to listen to them 
    Sharing with your loved one that you are there for them and want to support them in recovery in any way you can may just be the first move they need to ask for help.Being a safe haven for your loved one to talk to is so important. Tell them that you believe in them, even if you are not sure that you do. Let them know that you are in their corner. The recovery road is filled with meetings, sessions, rules, and expectations that can be overwhelming – holding a space for them will show your love and support.
  4. Have patience 
    Recovery is a lifelong endeavor that often has its ups and downs and requires a lot of commitment, time, dedication, and lots of discipline – your patience can be the consistent support needed along this journey.
  5. Set Healthy Boundaries 
    Creating clear boundaries will protect your personal and mental health. It is common in recovery for people to overstep boundaries. By having clearly communicated limits you will be able to more easily become aware of any codependency, enabling habits and other unhealthy behaviors.
  6. Know the signs of relapse
    As noted above, recovery often has its ups and downs, relapses can (and do) happen. Knowing some of the signs of a relapse can help you seek professional help in a prompt manner.
    • Beginning to spend time with people or places where substance use happened in the past
    • Not attended recovery sessions or meetings
    • Noticing changes in behavior or mood
    • Glamorizing the past and prior substance use
    • Feeling like they are retracting or pulling away from you when you talk about recovery related topics

Learn about your local support resources and reach out for help when needed!

Get to know the resources that exist in your community for substance recovery. For NorthEast Wisconsin, we have created a page of resources for you to explore.

Recovery is a long road that is better with good company

Your loved one has a long journey ahead as a recovering substance addict, and they are very fortunate to have you in their life. Learning ways to care for yourself, set clear boundaries, and lead with compassion will go a long way. 

You are not in this alone.

Please give us a call if you are supporting a loved one through recovery and need some support or resources. We would be happy to connect you and equip you with tools, support, and resources. Give us as call at 920-903-9337 or send us a message online at

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