Alcoholism is a disease that affects men, women, and children across the U.S. Alcohol addiction can occur in a person’s life regardless of their ethnicity, background, or income level. It’s estimated that 16 million American adults have an alcohol use disorder. Although only about 10 percent of people seek treatment, thousands of people have built meaningful lives in recovery.
If your loved one has set out on a sober path, there are some specific actions you can take to show that you are invested in their sobriety. The most important step is to simply communicate that you will be there for them throughout their recovery journey. Receiving this reassurance can help set a strong foundation for their recovery, especially if they are newly sober.
There are many additional ways to help a recovering alcoholic. By exploring some of these common support tactics, you can find the ones that resonate most with you.
1. Prioritize Your Relationship – Living With a Recovering Alcoholic
If someone you care about recently quit drinking, they have likely found themselves in a whole new phase of life. Their schedule may be full of therapy or 12-step meetings. Even if they seem busy, a simple suggestion to meet for coffee could mean a great deal.
If you are living with a recovered alcoholic, you may feel an even stronger desire to support your loved one. Invite them to make a meal together, or join you for an evening walk. These one-on-one activities provide an opportunity to create new and positive memories for you both.
It’s important to note that people who live with a recovered alcoholic often feel pressured to make sure their loved one succeeds in sobriety. Try to remember that their recovery is not your responsibility. You may want to attend an Al-Anon support group as a way to invest in your own healing process.
2. Be an Active Listener
People in recovery have a lot of physical, mental, and emotional processing to do. They may wonder about the future, or desire to make amends for the past. Because sober alcoholics have so much on their plate, it can be helpful to have a person who is there simply to listen.
You may have your own feelings about their recovery, especially if you were deeply impacted by their drinking days. It can be tricky to navigate these emotions, especially if your loved one is still in early sobriety. Fortunately, many forms of outside support are available. Therapy sessions and 12-step meetings can be great places to deal with these feelings.
At Riverside Recovery of Tampa, we provide family workshops that help facilitate these difficult conversations. Family therapy is intentionally designed as part of our addiction treatment program. These sessions help to ensure that all family members are given a chance to process their experience of the person’s addiction.
Family therapy sessions can be especially helpful in the early phases of a person’s recovery. In time, you and your loved one may be able to address the past in a more organic way.
3. Practice Patience and Positivity
Once your loved one gets sober, it can be tempting to believe that the problem has been solved. However, recovery is a process that unfolds over time. For many people, treatment programs and therapy sessions are just the beginning. It’s important to remember that even if a person struggles to get sober or suffers from a relapse — there is always hope for recovery.
Alcoholics in recovery may attend therapy groups or 12-step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous. These connections help people stay grounded in acceptance and patience. When a person feels tempted or overwhelmed, they have their community to return to for support. If it seems like their recovery journey is taking too long, they are gently reminded to be patient with themselves.
Just like alcoholics need to check in with their recovery network, family members can greatly benefit from having this type of community support. When loved ones model an attitude of patience and positivity, it helps to support the person suffering from alcoholism.
4. Avoid Making Assumptions
Sometimes people assume that when a person gets sober, they must have done so in a certain way. Our ideas of recovery can be influenced by what we see and hear in the world around us. The truth is, addiction affects people very differently, and there are many ways to recover from alcoholism.
Many people require the help of formal addiction treatment programs. Others may choose to attend support groups like SMART Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous. By asking your loved ones about their personal recovery routine, you affirm their individuality and allow them to share what works for them.
Avoiding assumptions also allows for more direct lines of communication. Instead of trying to guess what your loved one wants or needs, you could ask them to share what kind of support would be most helpful. This removes the guesswork, and sets up a healthier communication pattern in your relationship.
5. Learn More About Alcohol Addiction and Recovery
One of the most proactive ways to help a sober alcoholic is to broaden your understanding of addiction and recovery. Alcohol addiction is a complex, relapsing brain disease that is also highly treatable. To gain a deeper understanding of what your loved one has experienced, dive into some of the resources available online or in your community.
Connecting with others is a key part of healing from alcoholism. While the recovering person finds their footing in support groups or AA meetings, it’s important for loved ones to develop a network of support as well. Speaking with people who have been through similar situations can be an empowering way to heal from the family disease of alcoholism.
Support Matters in Alcoholism Recovery
After seeing someone you love endure active addiction and the growing pains of early sobriety, it’s only natural to want to ease their pain. You may have seen your loved one at their worst, and they are probably very aware of this fact. Because of this, choosing to maintain a healthy level of support can mean the world to a recovering alcoholic.
Riverside Recovery of Tampa is committed to helping individuals and families recover from addiction. We provide a full continuum of care that includes mental health counseling, relapse prevention strategies, and family therapy workshops.
National Institute on Drug Abuse — Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — AMERICA’S NEED FOR AND RECEIPT OF SUBSTANCE USE TREATMENT IN 2015