How to Support Someone Newly Sober

 “Despite the challenges, families who understand the inevitable ups and downs of early recovery put themselves in a strong position to offer their loved one meaningful support. Equally important, they are better able to maintain their own peace of mind as the path to recovery unfolds – and EVERYTHING CHANGES.” ~ Beverly Conyers, Everything Changes: Help for Families of Newly Recovering Addicts

When a loved one has begun their sober journey, you might be worried about the future and how you should act around them.

To the newly sober addict/alcoholic your support is crucial at this fragile time. If they’re going to have their best chance at avoiding relapse, they need YOU. Here are some tips about how you can best help support their sobriety.

You Don’t Need All the Answers

Your loved one has no idea about how to live without alcohol or drugs. They might turn to you for answers– and you don’t have them. They are used to hearing your suggestions as “trying to control them”, which only feeds their relapses. Provide the support, not the control.

That’s OKAY – You don’t have to have all the answers.

Share what you DO know, be honest about what you don’t know, and most of all, reassure them that they have your support.

What does this mean REALLY?

  • Give them a ride to outpatient treatment or 12-Step or other recovery support group meetings.
  • When they need someone to talk to, don’t turn them away – even if it’s in the middle of the night.
  • Be the positive voice that counters all their doubts.

Give Them Your Time

Even though you might have told them that you would file for divorce or that they had to move out if they did not seek help for their addiction, it may not be easy to start trusting again.

Once they are seeking help, people new to recovery are often lonely – they must avoid old drug/drinking friends, and they can’t yet relate to sober friends and family.

Perhaps they’ve isolated themselves because they feel ashamed of their past behaviors.

Loneliness can be a relapse trigger, and they need to learn how to break out of their solitary confinement.

Let them know that you want to spend time with them. Show them that nothing can sever your relationship – not the past, not their focus on recovery, not even relapse.

Respect Their Recovery

Be aware that their need for recovery must come FIRST.

  • Recovery support meetings.
  • Outpatient Treatment Programs (IOPs and PHP’s) meet several days a week, for hours at a time.
  • Court-ordered classes/counseling
  • Community service.
  • Sober-living facilities have curfews

Recovery is like having an extra full-time job. “Extra”, because they probably still have to work to support themselves.

Offer Them Healthy Alternatives

It’s helpful to spend time together with positive, alcohol-and-drug-free companionship. It is unhealthy to bring up the past or ask them questions about what they are learning in treatment. They are trying to understand what happened themselves and developing a sober support network.

  • Go to meetings–Go to Al-Anon/Narc-Anon meetings or Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous if your family member is ok with inviting you into their recovery. Many are not ready for this experience with their families in early recovery.
  • Have dinner –Invite them over for a healthy meal, or go out to a restaurant and let someone else do the cooking and cleaning.
  • Try new things together – People new to recovery have to “relearn” how to have fun. It’s easier and more enjoyable to try new things with someone else.
  • Keep it simple –If money or time are issues, you can meet regularly for coffee.

Supporting someone’s sobriety isn’t complicated – but you DO have to make the effort. Get help for yourself due to the behavior you experienced while they were under the influence so you don’t undermine their recovery.  Your committed support to your own healing can be a major factor in their successful recovery.

Lasting Recovery, a premier outpatient drug and alcohol program in San Diego, offers counseling and support to struggling addicts, alcoholics, and their families.

Lasting Recovery – “Where Wellness Begins…”

Help is waiting. Contact us now.

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