How to Support Someone in Drug or Alcohol Recovery

September is National Recovery Month. This month is not only important to provide support to those affected by addiction, but also to educate those who support and care for a recovering addict. We use this opportunity to raise awareness of the disease, start a conversation, and educate the public on addiction. Considering that drug and alcohol addiction affects millions of Americans, we need to stop neglecting this discussion.

It can be difficult for healthy individuals to understand how addicts must choose to resist their addiction every single day. Recovery is more than going to rehab and coming back home drug- or alcohol-free. Addiction is a disease that is difficult for people to control.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse writes, “These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.” We believe it’s most important to prevent addiction in the first place; however, when prevention is no longer an option, you should know how to help. Educating yourself on the best ways to support a recovering addict can change their life for the better.

Knowing Your Limits as a Supporter

While you may care deeply for an addict and want them so badly to be healed, you have to understand your limits as a caregiver and supporter. Loved ones need to understand they can’t will an addict to stop being an addict.

No matter how much you love someone, you don’t have control over their decisions and shouldn’t bear that unrealistic burden. However, you can provide support.

5 Ways to Show Support to a Recovering Addict

Substance-Free Environment

Make sure your living space is a safe zone and doesn’t have any drug or alcohol paraphernalia. There are enough temptations for a recovering addict around every corner. When a recovering addict is in your home, they should feel safe.

Demonstrate Support and Love

Show the recovering addict you love them through all their mistakes. Let them know that you will continue to be there to support them and demonstrate love and patience. Recovery is a long process and not something that will just go away.

Words of Support:

Provide a recovering addict with words of support. Encourage them to begin their recovery plan again or get back into treatment.

Both you and the recovering addict are probably upset after a relapse. Remember not to be unnecessarily hard on the recovering addict, because, like any chronic illness, relapse is a natural part of the process. It’s important to encourage them and love them, not put them down.

Phrases to avoid:

Avoid saying phrases about them not being strong enough—you don’t want them to feel weak and powerless. According to Promises Scottsdale, you should try not to say things like, “you have to start back at zero now,” “you just need more willpower,” or “you’ll be stronger next time.”

Suggest New Hobbies

It’s helpful for addicts to have something new in their lives to channel their newfound energy. Encourage them to find new hobbies and be supportive.

Recommend Joining a Support Group

While you would do anything to help them, it can be helpful for recovering addicts to be with people who understand the strong pull of addiction. Some addicts may be uncomfortable attending a support group at first, but gently nudge them to attend and continue to ask them how their support group is helping.

Encourage Healthy Activities: Mentally and Physically

Many addicts haven’t been physically or mentally healthy while using or drinking and have forgotten how it feels to be sober for long periods of time. Choosing healthy foods and encouraging healthy activities can make them feel better and more confident.


Once an addict is clearheaded, it can be alarming for them to feel all their feelings in a raw state. A recovering addict should make a point to learn more about themselves. Encourage them to understand why they feel certain ways, and how they think, through self-awareness. By better understanding themselves, an addict can learn more tactics on how to resist temptation.


Encourage them to prioritize proper nutrition and exercise. Many addicts aren’t coming from a physically healthy space, so they should be able to appreciate the changes they feel and see in their body.

This Recovery Month, show your support and start a conversation. We hope to encourage a conversation of our own on social media about this topic, and would love to hear from you. Tell us on our Facebook page how you support someone in their recovery. Here are other resources to help.