How to Help a Recovering Alcoholic or Addict

Nov 12, 2018 | Addiction, Alcohol, Helping a Loved One, Substance Abuse

To help a recovering alcoholic or addict, it is helpful to first understand that alcoholism and/or addiction is a disease. Some people become addicted the first time they ever use a mind-altering substance while others may not cross the line into addiction until later in life. The point to remember is that once someone becomes an alcoholic or an addict, they are no longer able to use alcohol or drugs without things spiraling out of control. It is as though their brain develops an allergy to the alcohol and/or drugs and once they use, they become internally obsessed with using again. The addiction begins to take over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They begin to lie, manipulate, and deceive in order to maintain access to the alcohol and/or drugs. The addiction begins to consume their life, despite the consequences that they may face. Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease and sobriety is an attainable solution for alcoholism and addiction.

Do’s and Don’ts to Helping a Recovering Alcoholic or Addict

  • Don’t tell them that they are doing great, so maybe they can have just one or two drinks now.
  • Don’t assume that they have everything under control if they do have just one or two drinks.
  • Don’t discourage them from going to AA meetings or support groups.
  • Don’t expect everything to be great, just because they aren’t drinking now.
  • Don’t expect them to be perfect. Recovery is a process and relapse is often a part of that process.
  • Don’t pretend like everything is normal if you begin to observe signs of relapse.
  • Don’t try to control everything that they do.
  • Don’t take ownership of their recovery.
  • Don’t expect them to meet all of your needs just because they are sober now.
  • Realize that they cannot ever drink again without the risk of returning to the insanity of their disease.
  • Be honest with yourself and others.
  • Learn about the disease process of addiction.
  • If you are living with them, remove the alcohol and drugs from the house.
  • Spend time with them in non-alcohol-related activities.
  • Help them develop a plan of action when attending events where alcohol or drugs may be present.
  • Encourage them to continue to work in an active recovery program.
  • Work through your own anger and frustration about their past actions, instead of holding onto the old resentments.
  • Develop your own support network, such as Al-Anon.
  • Realize that their sobriety is the foundation that future successes will grow. Without sobriety, things tend to deteriorate again.
  • Realize that while you may be able to control your drinking, they cannot control theirs. For an alcoholic, 1 drink is too many and 100 is not enough.
  • Develop new ways of being with them that do not revolve around the use of substances.
  • Resolve conflicts that may come up.
  • Take care of yourself and make sure that your own needs are getting met.

Remember that recovery is a process and that there may be ups and downs along the way. It is possible for an alcoholic or addict to live a happy, sober life as long as they commit to the journey of recovery. You are not responsible for their recovery, but you can provide the support that they may need to continue the journey.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.