Substance use is something powerful that can take hold of a person’s life. Even the smallest triggers can cause distress and bring an individual to relapse. What are some ways that you, as a loved one, can help someone in recovery?

Recovery is a tough phase in any former substance user’s life. Some would take months, years, and even many will hold the journey for a lifetime. If you know a loved one who is going through recovery, you may have witnessed their struggles first-hand and know how it is difficult to stay clean and sober.

Whether your loved one is beginning the process of recovery or someone who has been going at it for quite some time, you may still be clueless on what to do in comforting them. Here are some ways to provide encouragement as a loved one is going through recovery.

Techniques in Comforting People in Recovery

1. Remove your Judgments and Accept Lovingly.

One of the guiding principles in comforting someone is recovery is to remove judgments about their past, present or future decisions. Blaming or accusing them of giving in to triggers or starting a relapse can be very discouraging. Treating them as if they are weak or unable to commit to what they need to do is unhelpful, and may even bring them to give up their recovery entirely.

When your loved one is open to you about their struggles in sobriety, make sure to respond lovingly. Don’t blame, argue, or bring in negative energy. Treat them as you would treat any person who is going through a disease that can’t be fully helped unless given the right medication and intervention. Be gentle as possible.

2. Help Create a Sober Environment.

Some of the factors that stress people in recovery is encountering environmental triggers such as seeing visuals of alcohol, drugs, or watching TV shows along those themes. They can also be triggered with stressful situations or passing by areas where they used to acquire the substances. To help in comforting and bringing a stress-free recovery, you need to aid in promoting a sober environment for your loved one.

Avoid watching shows that have themes about substance use. If possible, watch documentaries that show the health effects of these substances rather than movies which romanticize the idea of using them recreationally. Go to places with your loved one that’s far from the areas they used to go under the influence, such as bars or houses of old friends.

3. Listen with Open Ears.

It is one thing to hear what your recovering loved on is saying, and it is another thing to listen. Active listening means you do not simply listen with the goal to respond, but fully empathize and do your best to place yourself in their shoes. Sometimes, they don’t need the blunt advice because they feel like they have done everything they can. Sometimes, all they need is a listening ear to help them deal with problems in life.

Listening also entails comforting them with their struggles, and rejoicing with them in victories, whether big or small. When talking to your loved one, your primary goal is to come from a place where you understand them, rather than judge them or force them with a solution.

4. Invite them in Healthy Habits and Hobbies.

Another way in comforting your loved one in recovery is to join them in building healthy habits. Some of the things you can do together include:

  • Exercising

  • Buying and cooking nutritious meals

  • Trying out a sport

  • Adopting a pet

  • Enrolling in meaningful classes

  • Trying out a hobby

  • Hanging out with friends who can be positive influences

These examples of activities can help bring meaning and joy in a recovering person’s life even without substance use. The best part of doing this is making them realize that they are not alone solving the problem. It helps them to feel that they are being supported even in the simplest of accomplishments.

5. Encourage them to Join Support Groups.

Comforting your loved one can also be in the form of helping them find networks that could serve as their foundation for recovery. For example, you can ask them to join support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. If they are reluctant in doing so, tell them that you can accompany them on the way to a session.

Some people in recovery do not feel comfortable getting plugged into support groups because of the anxieties of being judged or feeling like it is too much work. By having a person encouraging them or being with them as they join these groups, you can provide the extra push that they need.

It is Never too Late to Bring Comfort

Total sobriety can sometimes feel like an elusive dream for those who have struggles in recovery. With a little help from people who can bring comfort, it is possible to push your recovering loved ones towards a substance-free life.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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