"Dos" and "Donts" to Help Your Loved One on Their Climb

We field many calls and questions from family members and friends trying to support their loved ones as they struggle with addiction. “What should I do?” “How should I act?”

What follows are some of my most common discussion points:



Realize that by starting treatment, they are not cured.

Create a behavior contract: make it clear what is and is not allowed and stand by your contract. Creating this together is a great way to rebuild trust (for you and for them).

Look at recovery is a process that takes time: every climb has highs and lows

Get back to YOU: engage in self-care and get back into your own passions (which have likely suffered due to your resources being focused on their addiction as of late)

Give chances to earn back your trust

Give opportunities for responsibility

Applaud their progress and continued progress

Involve them in activities (they need to replace time and habits in their life)

Avoid substances and/or behaviors around the patient which may trigger relapses

Go to support groups for YOU (eg Al-Anon)

Ask them about their recovery plan

Ask them how you fit into their recovery plan

Ask them about their triggers and signs that they have relapsed

Encourage group/meeting participation. They may have been absent recently from your life But sobriety takes support and maintenance

Encourage (don’t nitpick!) healthy diet, exercise and sleep habits

Give them a private area to rest and relax

Listen. Completely. Without judgement. With a fresh attitude to the nature of reality.


Expect things to be “like they were” (you weren’t a big fan of that, remember?)

Be a nanny/guard: encourage chores, coordinate rides to appointments and work

Look at relapses as a failure. Slipping up is a chance to learn and improve. Be understanding

Nag/spy/micromanage: these aren’t needed to be supportive and CAN trigger relapses

Shame your loved ones about how their prior actions have lasting consequences. Talking about these consequences is okay, but blame will prevent healing.