Supporting Your Loved One in Recovery: A List of Do’s and Don’ts

8 Oct, 2021
happy couple relaxing at home

There is no doubt that you want to help your loved ones as they maneuver their way through their recovery. Sometimes as much as you want to help, you just don’t know how to properly help them. The fact is, it can be hard to know how to best support our loved ones when you struggle to understand what they are going through. Add in stigmas, negativity, mental health, and the ups and downs of recovery, you may find yourself in uncharted waters.

You are not alone. Many people are looking for ways to properly support their loved ones during their recovery and there are ways to help.  Here are a few key do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you continue to support your loved one.


Do use non-judgmental language. Your loved one is likely experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, and confusion, with some pride for getting through treatment sprinkled in. When you add in negative words that make them feel bad or like their gain of being in recovery doesn’t count, this can cause tension and deflate your loved one’s sense of self. Sometimes you don’t have ill intentions, you just don’t know what to say. Avoid using negative, stigmatizing words such as “addict” or “junkie”. Always put the person before the disease such as, “Kim is recovering from a substance use disorder”, or, “John is in recovery”.

Do know it’s okay to admit you don’t understand. When you are uncomfortable about a situation you tend to recluse. You may not know what to say, so you say nothing at all. Recall the times you’ve experienced an awkward silence. Guess what, it’s okay to not have all the right answers and to admit that you don’t understand. What matters in this situation is that you’re willing to learn and to hear them. Don’t be afraid to bring it up to your loved ones. Ask them what language they’d like you to use and if they are comfortable talking about their feelings and experiences. This can and should always be done with kindness and in a supportive manner.

Do be direct-not unkind. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s recovery, avoid asking accusatory questions that will put the person on defense. This could mean questions such as “are you using again?”, “What did you spend that money on?”. It’s all about presentation. You can approach situations so much differently and get much better responses. Try something along the lines such as “I noticed you’re not feeling as joyful lately, is there anything you’d like to talk about?”. Accept their answers and don’t pressure them to tell you. Keep showing up, and continue to be supportive to remind them that you are here to help when they need you.

Do remind them that you are here to help. There’s a difference between helping our loved ones through their treatment and recovery and enabling unhealthy behaviors. Be sure to know the difference. Rather than doing everything for them, or taking on their responsibilities, ask them what you can do to help. Make sure it’s specific. If they need to make it to meetings, offer to help them look up the bus schedule rather than agreeing to drive them to every meeting. If they are transitioning to a sober living situation, offer to help them compile a list of potential places to transition to and questions they’d like to ask instead of doing all the work for them.


Don’t be confrontational. You can ask questions, but again it’s all about presentation. Refrain from sarcasm, an accusatory tone, or belittling.

Don’t treat them like a child. Supporting your loved ones during their recovery is hard. Do your best to show them respect. When you show them respect, you are helping to build a stronger relationship. This is crucial to have, especially when they are struggling with cravings or fear the threat of relapse.

Don’t forget to set your own boundaries. Boundaries are important as they help to keep yourself healthy while also continuing to show your loved ones that you have their best interest in mind.

Don’t expect them to recover overnight. Recovery takes time. Your loved one has a long road full of obstacles. This process will take time. Right now, do your best to be patient.

Don’t believe that you can heal them. Addiction is a disease that requires professional help. You can’t save your loved one or make their addiction go away. It is not your job to save them from their mistakes or mishaps. Their recovery is their responsibility. Let them succeed, let them figure it out, and let them thrive during their recovery on their own terms.

It is both exciting and exhausting to watch our loved ones as they work their way through recovery. Having a strong, stable support system truly helps individuals in recovery to have a more successful experience. There are so many things that we can do to help our family members during their recovery such as listening to them, showing them they can trust us, highlighting their successes, and making them feel like a person. On the flip side, there are things that we should avoid such as belittling, shaming, or accusing our loved ones of things we aren’t certain about. Allowing our loved ones to take advantage of our kindness and not setting healthy boundaries are things you want to avoid. If you are looking for more do’s and don’t to help yourself and your loved one during their recovery, reach out to Sober Life today. We can help you during these difficult times. Call us today at 619-542-9542.

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