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5 Dos and Don’ts of Supporting a Loved One’s Recovery

It can be heartbreaking to watch someone you love struggle with addiction. You want to help them escape their substance use permanently. But breaking the devastating cycle of addiction takes time, and recovery can often be filled with challenges and setbacks.

Your love and patience are critical as your loved one navigates the ups-and-downs of recovery towards a healthier, sober future. Here are 5 dos and don’ts of supporting your loved one on their recovery journey.

5 Dos

  1. Listen. By actively listening, your loved one will feel more comfortable sharing their feelings – both positive and negative – about their recovery journey.
  2. Reduce triggers. If your loved one is trying to abstain from alcohol, avoid keeping alcohol in your home and show support by also abstaining. Or if your loved one is struggling with recovery from a drug addiction, keep prescription medications locked up and out of sight. It is also helpful to avoid social situations with friends or family members whose behaviors could lead to a relapse.
  3. Create new, healthier ways to spend time together. Help your loved one find new positive coping strategies. Exercise together, go fishing, initiate a weekly dinner date, etc.
  4. Be patient. Understand that your loved one may relapse. Try to remain positive and supportive as they navigate their recovery process, no matter how long it takes.
  5. Take care of yourself. Caring for someone dealing with addiction can be exhausting. Set aside time for your own self-care. If it helps, seek out support groups for families of people dealing with addiction such as Nar-Anon or Al-Anon. St. Luke’s Penn Foundation offers Family Education to help families better understand substance use and to provide support as they support their loved one.

5 Don’ts

  1. Place blame. Most individuals dealing with addiction feel guilt and shame and understand that their actions have negatively impacted their family and friends. You don’t need to remind them of their mistakes; instead, focus on the future and the positives ahead.
  2. Use judgmental language. Don’t call your loved one an “addict.” Instead, refer to them as someone in substance use recovery or someone who is recovering from addiction. Labels matter –you want your loved one to feel like they’re being seen as a person, not a problem.
  3. Doubt their ability to recover. If you don’t believe in your loved one’s ability to recover, then how can they? It’s your role to be your loved one’s primary encourager as they navigate their recovery and find a new, sober way of living.
  4. Nag. You may feel compelled to check on your loved constantly to ensure that they’re not falling back into bad habits. But you need to give them space to make positive choices on their own; if you don’t, they’ll never learn how.
  5. Compare them to others. It can seem harmless to mention the successes of others to point out where your loved one “could be” in their lives in terms of job or a family if they hadn’t suffered from addiction. Avoid these comparisons as they could make your loved one feel worse. Instead, focus on acknowledging your loved one’s milestones in recovery, even if they are small steps.

Do you know someone struggling with addiction who is ready to get help? Encourage them to reach out to St. Luke’s Penn Foundation for an evaluation today. Our caring team of professionals is here and ready to support them on their path to recovery.