girl hugging and supporting a family member or friend maintain sobriety in early recovery

It can be difficult to witness and support a family member or friend through recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD). Understanding the nature of addiction and the recovery process is crucial for offering appropriate and meaningful support to those maintaining sobriety from drugs and alcohol.

Understanding Drug Addiction and the Recovery Process

Addiction, specifically drug and alcohol addiction, is a chronic disease characterized by the constant need to use a particular substance despite the destructive repercussions. Drugs and alcohol affect the brain’s normal functioning, interfering with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals from neurotransmitters. When supporting a loved one in recovery, it’s essential to understand that a combination of psychological, genetic, and environmental factors influences drug addiction and substance abuse. Comprehending the nature of a loved one’s substance abuse can help when addressing the underlying issues contributing to their addiction.

Whether it’s a mental health disorder, trauma, or family dysfunction, these are factors that can contribute to someone’s drug or alcohol abuse. Once your loved one has gone through addiction rehab, while they may be sober, these issues can still arise and trigger unwanted emotions. Past traumas and mental health issues can act as a trigger for someone’s alcohol or drug addiction, which can be a threat to the sobriety process.

How to Support a Loved One in Maintaining Sobriety

Adopting a complete understanding of the nature of substance use disorders (SUDs) and addiction recovery can better equip individuals to support their family members or friends through recovery and sobriety. Helping a loved one maintain sobriety is a process that requires patience, empathy, and dedication to their happiness and quality of life. It can be challenging to watch someone you love struggle with addiction and enter the recovery process. It’s natural to want to offer your help and be worried about enabling them or interfering with their sobriety. Here are some ways you can offer your support to a family member or friend in recovery to maintain sobriety:

1. Offer Emotional Support

Sometimes, someone needs a loved one to be there for them and listen to them. Offering someone emotional support in recovery can allow them to discuss their emotions and experiences without judgment openly. Showing a friend or a family member that you’re there for them and expressing your care is one of the most substantial forms of love and support.

2. Encourage Professional Help and Support

Following drug and alcohol rehab, patients are advised to continue a consistent treatment plan. This often includes attending support meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), along with group and individual therapy sessions. As a family member or friend, encouraging a loved one through sobriety to attend group meetings and therapy sessions can help reinforce and support them when feeling discouraged.

3. Help Build a Sober Network

Encouraging your recovering loved one to build connections with other sober individuals and attend recovery meetings can help them cultivate a supportive sober network. Finding sober-friendly events or community activities, you can attend together can also foster a sense of togetherness and remind them that they don’t have to do it alone.

4. Foster a Sober-Friendly Environment

Whether it’s family gatherings, getting together with friends, or going out for dinner, you can help create a sober environment by removing drugs and alcohol from the event. Providing non-alcoholic beverages for someone recovering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can make them feel included. Even though you’re not in recovery from addiction, it’s best to avoid drinking around a loved one who is. If it isn’t a substance-free environment, then it’s best to avoid it, as that can be triggering for them in the early stages of recovery.

5. Promote Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Promoting healthy lifestyle changes and participating in sober-friendly activities and hobbies can provide a healthy distraction for individuals in recovery. Staying active through regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting 7-9 hours of sleep at night can improve their physical and mental wellness.

6. Set and Respect Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries with a loved one in recovery is critical for protecting their well-being and your own. It’s important also to respect the boundaries that your recovering friend or family member sets. Addiction treatment and therapy have helped them process their emotions, adopt healthy coping mechanisms, and identify their limits. Their boundaries are their limits, so don’t push them. Respecting their boundaries is just as important as respecting yours. Communicating these limits can help both parties form a mutual understanding.

7. Be Prepared for Setbacks

Unfortunately, relapse can happen in the early stages of recovery. If this happens, you mustn’t get angry or shame your loved one. Instead, show compassion and offer your support in getting them back on track to sobriety. Advise them to talk to their sponsor or therapist while discussing what might have triggered their relapse and how it can be avoided in the future.

8. Take Care of Yourself

Supporting a family member or friend in maintaining sobriety can be draining and take an emotional toll on yourself. Getting support for yourself through support groups like Al-Anon for friends and family and attending therapy sessions can help process these emotions and experiences. Keep up with your self-care and hobbies, and surround yourself with good friendships to help maintain a healthy balance.

9. Celebrate Their Progress

The recovery process can be strenuous, and as a close friend or family member, acknowledging their progress can give them the hope they need. Whether it’s celebrating small milestones and successes in their sobriety journey, this positive support can motivate them to keep going and remind them why they started their sobriety journey.

10. Encourage Independence and Self-Management

Independence in recovery can be difficult in the early stages, especially when loved ones try to be helpful and supportive. When supporting a loved one in recovery, giving them enough space to take responsibility in their life, whether managing their recovery plan, adopting healthy habits, forming friendships, etc. Encouraging them and allowing them to make decisions independently can boost their confidence and reassure them that they’re capable of self-management. You can still support and be there for them at a healthy distance, empowering them with positive reinforcement that supports their sobriety journey.

If you’re wondering how to support a loved one in early sobriety, remember that a supportive and non-judgmental approach can aid their recovery journey more than you think. Emotional support and healthy boundaries can help people recovering from an addiction build a sustainable life in recovery.


Whether you’re struggling with alcoholism or substance use disorder (SUD), Coastal Detox is here to support you. Reach out to get into treatment and get sober today!





  • National Insitute on Drug Abuse. Understanding Drug Use and Addiction Drug Facts.
  • National Insitute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous. AA.
  • Narcotics Anonymous. NA.
  • Mental Health America. What do healthy boundaries look like?
  • Verywell Mind, 2023. 5 Relapse Triggers and How to Prepare for Them.