How to Support a Recovering Alcoholic

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Learn how to support a recovering alcoholic with tips from

If your loved one has just returned home from an alcohol rehab center, it is important for you to know how to support a recovering alcoholic. The first thing to remember, is that recovery is a life-long process and your loved one will need help in their transition to wholeness. The best thing that you and your family can do for your loved one, is to be prepared and ready to support them.

The family is the greatest advocate and support system for a recovering alcoholic and you can make a tremendous difference in how well your loved one stays focused on their sobriety and avoids relapse. Here are some tips on how to support a recovering alcoholic:

  1. Family Therapy

Family therapy provides a forum for the entire family to work together to heal and move forward. The family utilizes its resources and strengths to reduce the harm that addiction has caused, and to sustain sobriety. The family will work through some of the damage that addiction may have caused such as:

  • A breakdown in trust and communication
  • Repairing relationships
  • Financial hardship
  • Learning about unacceptable enabling behaviors and what is acceptable behavior
  • Working through fear, resentment, guilt, anger, shame and other emotional issues
  • Physical and mental health problems
  1. Set Goals

You should not let one day float into the next without some structure. A good tip for how to help a recovering spouse is to have specific goals prepared, and help them put those plans into action. Encourage your loved one to move forward, but don’t place unrealistic goals before them. Allow them to go at their own pace and take it one day at a time. If they want to return to school or go back to work, but are still having difficulty getting started, you can talk to them about it directly, or get help from their therapist or counselor.

  1. Avoid Stress

Try to avoid as much stress on your loved one as possible while they are adjusting to living sober. Stress can cause knee-jerk reactions that can be damaging to your loved one and you. Your loved one may get tense at times because it is a recovering alcoholic behavior. You can offer to go on a walk, or do some other physical activity to work it off. Try to get them to meditate, pray, or listen to music that is happy and uplifting. Practicing one’s faith can bring healing, peace, hope, and joy, while eliminating a multitude of stress.

  1. Learn About Recovery

You and your family can learn about recovering alcoholic behavior and other aspects of recovery. Some rehab centers offer educational classes about the recovery process for the families of recovering alcoholics, and you can always visit Al-Anon meetings to gain more insight. You can also offer to attend support group meetings with your loved one. To assist your loved one in remaining sober, you and other family members must remain sober too. Also, remove all alcohol, drugs, or triggering items from the home, as they can easily tempt your loved one.

  1. Good Health

Maintaining good health is essential to good recovery. Make sure that your loved one sees a physician regularly for check-ups, and is taking whatever medications the doctor has prescribed. Remember the acronym HALT= hungry, angry, lonely, and tired– and avoid them all. Your loved one and all family members, should get nourishing foods and drink, and stay well hydrated and rested. If there are emotional issues that need attention, such as anger, try to talk them out or seek professional counseling. Stay connected and don’t allow your loved one to become isolated from family members and friends, because this can cause sadness or depression, which in turn can lead to drinking again. You can do fun and exciting things together such as: cooking/baking, take a vacation, go camping, swimming or fishing, take in a movie and dinner, play a sport, or go for a walk, among many other activities that do not involve alcohol.

You can learn how to help a recovering addict and be a vital part of your loved one’s recovery. And as they progress in recovery, you can look back and be pleased at what you both have accomplished.