Thursday , September 16 2021
Struggling with Addiction

How to be a Supportive Friend to Someone Struggling with Addiction

Table of Contents

  • Break the Stigma
  • Be Part of the Recovery Circle
  • Use the Correct Terms
  • Keep them Accountable


  • One of the most important ways to support your friend or loved one is by breaking the stigma of addiction so they can feel comfortable and supported.
  • Active participation helps those struggling with addiction foster the connections they will need as they continue into recovery. 
  • Learning the correct terms will help your loved one feel seen and will allow for a smoother dialogue.
  • Keeping your loved one accountable and productive throughout their recovery will help them in the long run. 

When a family member or loved one struggles with addiction, they often need support to pursue recovery. The media tends to paint a picture of addiction that feels bleak, but recovery is possible with supportive family and friends. There are a few ways to help loved ones recover smoothly and set them up for long-term success. 

Here are four things that you can do to help loved one’s during recovery. 

Break the Stigma

When it comes to alcohol recovery, it is important to remember that addiction is not a choice or a moral failing but a chronic illness. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a brain disease;however, there is still stigma surrounding the diagnosis.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “People with addiction continue to be blamed for their disease. Even though medicine long ago reached a consensus that addiction is a complex brain disorder with behavioral components, the public and even many in healthcare and the justice system continue to view it as a result of moral weakness and flawed character.” 

Support networks are critical for an individual in early recovery. With proper guidance and care, you can help a loved one navigate their AUD by eradicating the stigma surrounding it. One way to achieve this is by acknowledging the disease model and introducing your loved one to tools or clinicians that can help.

Join Their Recovery Circle

You cannot fight the disease for your loved one, but you can be a support system for them. Some ways that you can help support someone struggling with AUD is through being an active member of their Recovery Circle:

Suppose a loved one is in treatment, attempt to remain as involved with their care as appropriate and possible. Many Addiction Treatment Centers have family therapy and family days that you may be allowed to attend. If you cannot participate in a session at the facility, then try to be supportive in other ways, such as through letters or care packages. Practices like this can help a struggling individual stay motivated, avoiding potential slips or relapse.

An article in Very Well Mind highlights the importance of family participation, stating, “In fact, if the family does not become involved in learning about substance abuse and the role it can play in the dynamics of the family, it might actually hinder the alcoholic or addict’s recovery if family members continue their dysfunctional or enabling behaviors.”

While you may strive to be a prominent figure in one’s support network, it is essential to remember your well-being. If you are supporting a loved one, it is important to set boundaries so that you can remain a source of strength during their recovery. You may even want to consult a therapist or counselor so that you can process your feelings as well. 

Use the Correct Terms

When talking with your friend or loved ones about their addiction, it is important to realize that words matter. There have been decades of work researching why the revision of language around addiction is so essential. John Kelly, a professor at Harvard Medical School, spoke to the Harvard Gazette, saying “If we want addiction destigmatized, we need a language that’s unified and really accurately portrays the true nature of what we’ve learned about these conditions over the last 25 years.” In short, words like ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ are insensitive and often do more damage than good.

Many institutions, including The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, have created language guides that offer examples of supportive terms you can use. 

Keep them Accountable

Trust is crucial within a Recovery Circle. While it may take time to re-establish trust, it is essential that you let your friend or loved one feel like they are in control of the process. The ability to weigh options and choose the best outcome can help them feel confident as they experience recovery. 

In an article for The Huffington Post, Carole Bennett, MA says, it is important that your loved one “start to trust their own core instincts for planning and developing a road map toward their goals. Even if you don’t agree with the path they wish to take, or if ultimately it turns out to be the wrong one, let them be the lead Iditarod dog.”

One way you can help your loved one foster trust and remain accountable is through remote alcohol monitoring technology. The Soberlink system combines facial recognition and tamper detection with wireless connectivity to send results in real-time to an individual’s Recovery Circle. An accountability tool like Soberlink can help your loved one demonstrate their sobriety and stay committed to their recovery. 


One of the most important things you can do to support a friend or family member during recovery is to participate in the process and provide encouragement along the way. Using stigma-free language, being part of a recovery circle, and holding your loved one accountable can all aid in fostering a person’s sustained AUD recovery.

While it’s important to be a support system for someone struggling, it’s equally important to maintain your own health and be mindful that you cannot force a person to change, only educate and encourage them.

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