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 going through recovery, you may have witnessed their struggles first-hand and know how difficult it is to stay clean and sober.

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

Techniques for Comforting People in Recovery

1. Remove Your Judgments and Accept Lovingly.

One of the guiding principles in comforting someone in 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 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 going through a disease that can’t be fully helped unless given the right medication and intervention. Be as gentle as possible.

2. Help Create a Sober Environment.

Some factors that stress people in recovery include encountering environmental triggers such as seeing visuals of alcohol or drugs or substance-related themes. They can also be triggered by experiencing stressful situations or encountering areas where they used to acquire substances. To comfort people and aid in their stress-free recoveries, you need to aid in promoting sober environments.

Try to avoid watching movies or programs that have themes about substance use. If possible, watch documentaries that show the health effects of these substances rather than movies that romanticize the idea of using them recreationally. Visit places with your loved ones that are far from the areas they used to go to while under the influence, such as bars or the houses of old friends.

3. Listen with Open Ears.

It is one thing to hear what your recovering loved one is saying, and it is another thing to listen. Active listening means you do not simply listen to respond, but fully empathize and do your best to understand their perspectives.

Sometimes, they don’t need blunt advice because they feel they have done everything they can. Sometimes, all they need is a sympathetic ear to help them deal with problems in life.

Listening can also involve comforting them when they’re struggling, and rejoicing with them in victories. When talking with your loved ones, your primary goal is to come from a place where you understand them instead of judging them or forcing solutions on them.

4. Assist Healthy Habits and Hobbies.

Another way to comfort your loved ones 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

  • Practicing new hobbies

  • Hanging out with friends who can be positive influences

Such activities can help bring meaning and joy to a recovering person’s life without using substances. It can help people realize that they are not alone when they’re trying to solve their problems. It helps them feel that they have your support during challenges and accomplishments.

5. Encourage Them to Join Support Groups.

Comforting your loved ones can also include 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 to do so, you can offer to accompany them to and from sessions or other assistance.

Some people in recovery do not feel comfortable joining support groups because they’re anxious about being judged or feel like it might be too much work. By encouraging them or traveling with them, you can provide the extra push they need.

It Is Never Too Late to Bring Comfort

Total sobriety can sometimes feel like an elusive dream for those struggling in recovery. With a little help from people who can bring comfort, it is possible to encourage your loved ones to pursue and maintain substance-free lives.


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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