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How to Support an Alcoholic in Recovery: The Do’s

So how can you support an alcoholic in recovery? These are the main do’s to think about as an outsider.


Do: Educate Yourself on Alcoholism

How to build a support system for an alcoholic

Before you act on anything, educating yourself is one of the best ways how to support an alcoholic.

Learn how to be supportive of your loved one, read some articles on alcoholism, attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or join some support groups to find out more. Luckily the internet is a huge help when it comes to education, there is a vast amount of free educational resources online that can help you understand as best you can how they’re feeling.

Once you can better understand what addiction is like for the sufferer you may find it easier to be the sympathetic hand they need.

One of the biggest difficulties of knowing how to support a recovering alcoholic, is not being able to relate to their struggle. It can be particularly hard to feel sympathy if they’re also making your life difficult too.

Often, alcoholism will break relationships down, whether that be due to the fact that alcohol makes the user nasty or aggressive or that it takes their top priority over friends and family. Whatever it is, it is understandably difficult to be torn between love and resent.

Although this is a common reality, try to understand that this is an addiction, not a choice. This better understanding and education behind addiction is what is going to help you better sympathise with them and ultimately, better help them to recover.

Supporting an alcoholic in recovery is a hard job, however, you don’t have to do it alone. Make good use of the help, information, and resources that are available to you.


Do: Encourage Professional Help

How to support an alcoholic

No matter how mild or severe your loved one’s addiction is, it’s important that you encourage them to seek professional help, such as at a local rehab centre. Addictions can be dangerous and overcoming them alone is difficult.

Do some research on the options available to your loved one and then give them some advice on how they can get started on their professional recovery journey. You could stage an intervention with other family members and friends to allow them to see the impact that their addiction is making on not just themselves but their loved ones too.

Explain to your loved one what the treatment options are to make them more aware of what they can expect in recovery.

You can do the preparation work for them and seek out family referrals and get the ball rolling with rehab so they’re ready to go in after you’ve encouraged their recovery.


Do: Take Good Care of Yourself

How to support a recovering alcoholic

It is impossible for you to help another person if you are not taking care of yourself.

Addictions can destroy an entire family if you allow them, that is why it’s important that you put your guard up. You must make sure that you are getting proper rest, eating well, and exercising like you normally would.

Keep on top of attending to all of your duties at work, around the house, and with your family.

You should never allow addiction to derail you completely away from your own life, as much as it is easier said than done, you must remain strong in order to help someone who is struggling with an addiction.

Not only that, but the weight of addiction can take up so much time that you can neglect family and ultimately become a carer, putting their life ahead of yours. While you should help, you alway need to stay healthy and be there for kids, friends and their loved ones.


How to Support an Alcoholic in Recovery: The Don’ts

While you’ll know what to do, here are the things that you want to be avoiding when supporting an alcoholic in recovery.

Don’t: Enable an Alcoholic

Supporting an alcoholic in recovery

It can be very difficult for family members and friends when they are watching someone with an alcohol or drug addiction, so while you of course might not intend to enable an alcoholic’s behaviour, oftentimes, loved ones will support the addiction without even realising what they’re doing.

Alcohol recovery support groups can be the best place to understand enabling behaviour and this will be a good place to go if you are worried about accidentally enabling your loved one. This is closely related to education, meaning the more you get to know about alcoholism, the better you can help.

When trying to understand how to support an alcoholic, you should never rescue the addict, in fact it can be important to allow them to experience the consequences of their addiction, as hard as that can be. A lot of the time, people can be unable to change until they are encouraged to make changes by coming to a realisation.

Don’t financially support the addict or provide them support for their addiction to get worse. The more you support someone and help them feed their addiction, the longer it will take for the person to reach out for the help they need.


Don’t: Drink Around Your Loved One

How to support an alcoholic friend

While there is a consistent debate around whether an alcoholic can ever drink again, it is always a safe bet, particularly for newly recovering alcoholics, to avoid drinking around them.

Without even realising it, you may be enabling their addiction or at the very least, making recovery more difficult.

Even if the alcoholic in recovery feels comfortable being around people that drink, it is a good idea to check in with them and certainly not to encourage it.


Don’t: Blame or Shame an Alcoholic in Recovery

How to support an alcoholic family member

Being the alcohol recovery support your loved one needs is a big task to take on, and during this time you may experience a range of emotions including anger, aggression, sadness. When these emotions crop up, don’t let the temporary emotion cause a long term setback for the addict in recovery.

Emotions may make you say things you don’t mean, like blaming or shaming them. Understand that to know how to support an alcoholic friend, family member or loved one truly, you should try to control your emotions in a way that won’t allow you to lash out on them, even when it doesn’t feel fair.

Don’t forget either that if you blame yourself for your loved one’s addiction, this doesn’t make you any more helpful or supportive, it will be self deprecating.

If you want to help your loved one, you must not blame or shame them. If you do, your loved one won’t have any inspiration to make changes, in fact it will cause them to feel more negative emotion which is going to act as a catalyst for further addiction.


Get Help For Alcoholism


Whether you want to know how to support an alcoholic family member, or how to support an addict in recovery already, these are the main dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

If you know someone who is struggling with an addiction, professional addiction recovery is the best option. If you want to find out more about rehab treatments and what’s involved in alcohol recovery, get in touch with us today.

We can provide you with all the advice you need on how to approach your loved one and encourage them to seek professional help. We will happily answer any questions that you may have and we are here to provide you with advice on anything you need to support your loved one.

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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: September 8, 2023

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. His passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases. The journey continues. In recent times, John has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with NAD+ scientists and the very best of the medical professionals in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Hospitals own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with NAD+ Therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.