How to Support a Recovering Alcoholic

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Many people think that once an alcoholic completes treatment, they’re cured of their alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Recovering from addiction is a lifelong commitment. In fact, life after treatment might require even more determination from both the individual and their loved ones. Family and friends might wonder how to best support a recovering alcoholic on their lifelong journey to sobriety.

6 Tips on How You Can Help a Recovering Alcoholic

While it’s important to remember that alcoholics have to help themselves first and foremost, there are several things you can do to show support. Here are some ways in which you can support an alcoholic to stay sober after rehab:

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1. Educate Yourself on Addiction and Recovery

Since alcohol abuse and addiction are complicated, it’s important to educate yourself. Recovery can be very challenging to individuals as their lives move on. Knowing potential triggers, related health problems, psychological factors, and details of the addiction recovery process, will put you in a great position to be able to understand the ins and outs of the challenges your recovering alcoholic friend or familiy member may be facing.. You’ll have a better idea of the complex nature of their addiction and this will allow you to better relate to their recovery journey.

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2. Be Patient and Prepare for Setbacks

The long and complex recovery process means that setbacks are to be expected. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of people in recovery relapse. [1] Thankfully, the relapse rates reduce drastically after longer periods of sobriety. It’s important that you continue to show support and understanding despite these common setbacks.
Addiction also creates issues that could continue even past recovery. These might include financial instability, health problems, or relationship difficulties. Despite sobriety, a person who has struggled with alcohol abuse previously will have to answer for past offenses. Your preparation and empathy will make it easier for your loved one to deal with these hurdles.

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3. Have Healthy Expectations

The belief that individuals are fully cured after rehab is a misconception. It’s important to remember that recovery is lifelong and that mistakes could happen. Avoid placing unrealistic expectations on your loved one. You’ll feel disappointed and confused should a relapse occur, and these feelings won’t help you to be in a position to support them.

4. Make Changes

Your loved one needs support to maintain sobriety after rehab. When unsure how to help someone stay sober, a good start is making healthy changes that encourage sobriety and introducing helpful activities for recovering alcoholics
Examples of changes you can make are removing addictive substances from the environment and avoiding gatherings where alcohol is present. You could also find fun, sober activities to enjoy, introduce new sober friends, and focus on fresh experiences. 

Stress is one of the most common causes of relapse. Introducing some de-stressing activities into the life of a recovering alcoholic will help to prevent setbacks. Here are some good examples of stress relief activities:

  • Journaling
  • Breathing techniques
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Artwork

Introducing these changes will make sobriety significantly easier for your loved one to maintain.

5. Leave Time and Energy for Yourself

Guiding a loved one through the addiction recovery process can take its toll. You might find yourself devoting all your time and energy to your loved one, but neglecting yourself. It’s vital that you take time and space to take care of yourself. Don’t let yourself become drained to the point of being unable to help, but rather focus on strengthening yourself so that you’re then in a position to help others.

6. Don’t Judge, Be Supportive

Recovering alcoholics often feel judged by their family and friends. It’s important to learn what to say to a recovering alcoholic, because taking the wrong approach can be harmful to their progress. Refrain from criticizing and instead offer acceptance. Remember to listen and encourage better habits like exercising, cooking, games and mindfulness. Joining a support group for families in similar situations could also give you tools to maintain the right approach. There’s no need for you or your loved one to ever feel alone during recovery.

Here are several examples of popular support groups:


A lot of people struggle with how to best support a recovering alcoholic. Alcohol abuse recovery isn’t easy, and knowing that they have the love and support of friends and family helps an addict tremendously. If you continue to show understanding, acceptance, and patience, your loved one will be more encouraged to stay sober.

For further support in dealing with an alcoholic loved one, don’t hesitate to contact us via our website. You can also speak to one of our professional advisors by calling Avenues Recovery anytime on 603-212-1831.

Learn more about how to help an alcoholic family member.



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