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Guide: Supporting A Loved One in Recovery

Substance misuse, also known as addiction, can affect individuals of all ages, including teenagers and children. Recovery, in the context of addiction and substance misuse, refers to the process of overcoming the physical, psychological, and social effects of addiction. People in recovery seek to achieve and maintain a state of physical and mental well-being. This can look like abstinence from/ reduced use of substances, and the ability to lead a fulfilling and productive life.

When a person is in recovery, it's crucial for loved ones to provide unwavering support, guidance, and understanding. Let’s explore three essential strategies for supporting someone you love in recovery:

1. Encourage and Empower

Supporting a loved one in recovery is a delicate balance between encouragement and empowerment. It's essential to provide support without falling into the trap of cheerleading, as this can enable their behavior and invalidate their feelings. The most valuable thing you can do as a parent or loved one of someone recovering from addiction is to support them to help themselves.

Remind them that it's okay to make mistakes and emphasize the freedom they have to make choices that lead to a healthier, substance-free life. By offering this kind of support, you can play a pivotal role in their recovery journey while respecting their autonomy and resilience.

2. Set Boundaries

Establishing boundaries with your partner or adult child, as challenging as it may appear, is a crucial step in fortifying your relationship. Consider implementing clear boundaries that communicate that you're not always available at their immediate disposal.

Image of text on dark blue background. Text reads: Example Of A Boundary-I am in bed by 9pm.  Do not call unless it’s an emergency.  Example Of A Request-Please don’t call me after 9pm. Example Of An Offer-I notice you often call me after 9pm but I’m usually in bed. Would it help if we schedule our phone calls or if I set aside one day a week for calls after 9pm? Source: @connectwithoumou on Instagram

This can help prevent them from taking your support for granted. It can also allow them to take responsibility for their own actions, while giving you the space you need to care for your own health. Striking a healthy balance between support and self-respect ultimately strengthens the bond between you and your loved one in recovery.

3. Your Actions Matter

When spending time with your loved one who is in recovery, it's a good idea to remain sober and avoid any behaviors that could trigger their desire to use substances. Even if you don't have a substance use issue yourself, their recovery journey involves effort from everyone in their support system. Your commitment to sobriety during these moments is greatly appreciated by your loved one. It demonstrates your dedication to assisting them on their path to recovery.

S A M H S A (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) infographic titled : Helping a Loved One Dealing With Mental And/Or Substance Use Disorders. It gives 6 ways to help with details for each: Talk to Your Loved One, Be Open, Show Compassion, Be Sure to Care For Yourself Too, Seek Support, and Remember Mental and Substance Use Disorders Are Treatable.  Tips are spread around a spoked circle image with two characters standing shoulder to shoulder in the center.

Your health matters too! To support yourself during this time, consider seeking guidance from a counselor or joining a support group, such as SMART Recovery for Families or Al-Anon. You can also use this support group locator from These resources can help you navigate your emotions and the challenges of supporting your loved one. You'll gain the tools and readiness to address situations as they arise.

By staying sober and actively engaging in your own support, you become an even more reliable and impactful source of encouragement for your loved one throughout their recovery process.

S A M H S A (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) infographic titled : Supporting a Loved One Dealing With Mental and/or Substance Use Disorders, Starting the Conversations. Further text reads: How You Can Help- 1. Identify an appropriate time and place, 2. Express Concerns and Be Direct, 3. Acknowledge their feelings and listen, 4. Offer to help, 5. Be patient. It also gives examples about What to Say that read: "I've been worried about you. Can we talk? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?", "I see you're going through something. How can I best support you?", "I care about you and am here to listen. Do you want to talk about what's been going on?", and "I've noticed you haven't seemed like yourself lately. How can I help?"

Hear Connecticut residents share inspirational stories of recovery from mental health challenges and substance use disorders:


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