As someone who has been sober for four years, I can honestly say that the support of people who love me has made all the difference in my recovery. Without their love and understanding, I’m not sure I would still be sober today.

Being an ally to someone in recovery doesn’t come naturally for everyone, though. For those who don’t have firsthand experience with addiction, it can be difficult to know the right way to provide a good support system. You may often wonder if you are doing too much or not doing enough when it comes to providing that support.

The truth is that every situation is different. There is no cut and dry way to be an ally to a loved one who has overcome, or is in the process of overcoming, an addiction. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Make a true effort to understand what your loved one is going through.

While it’s not entirely possible to grasp the magnitude of addiction without having been through it, you can still make the effort to understand to the best of your ability. This could mean asking your loved one questions about their recovery and taking their responses to heart, or maybe reading about how addiction can affect a person. There are a plethora of resources on the internet that can aid you in educating yourself about addiction and recovery. Taking the steps to educate yourself about these topics shows your loved one that you truly care about what they are going through and want to do whatever possible to provide support.

2. Ask what your loved one needs from you as an ally.

The best way to offer a good support system is simply to ask what would benefit your loved one in their recovery. Some people like to be checked in on daily, while others find that type of support frustrating and overbearing. If they are unsure what they’d like from you, you can offer to attend a 12-step meeting with them, tell them you’re just a phone call or text away, or recommend good reading materials about recovery. Ultimately, however, it’s up to them to tell you what would be most helpful.

3. Do not enable addictive behaviors.

A Man With I Love You Written On His Hand Representing How To Be An Ally To A Loved One In Recovery

Even in recovery, certain addictive behaviors can still come through. If you recognize your loved one acting in a way similar to how they acted when they were using, call them out on it. While this doesn’t necessarily mean they are using again, it could be an indication that they want to or have been thinking about it. Certain behaviors can lead to relapse. If confronted early on, it could be the intervention needed in order to avoid that relapse and get your loved one back on track with their recovery.

4. Support their new passions and hobbies.

Anyone in recovery likely finds themselves with much more free time than they had while drinking or using. This typically leads to developing new hobbies and passions to fill this time. If these new activities are healthy and helpful in overcoming addiction, then tell them you are behind their interests 100 percent. It is vital for people in recovery to activities to fill their free time so they don’t find themselves returning to drinking or using. As an ally, you can offer to take part in these activities with them or just make it clear that you support their new found interests.

5. Tell them how you feel.

While it’s important for you to understand what your loved one is going through, it’s also vital for them to understand things from your point of view. This way, you’re all on the same page and the expectations from both sides are clear. Open dialogue is important in recovery. If you’re proud of your loved one, be sure to tell them. On the flip side, tell them if you’re frustrated or confused. Honesty is the best way for both sides to understand what they want and need from one another.

The circumstances surrounding addiction and recovery vary for all parties involved. Though this advice may work well for some people, it may not be the right course of action for everyone. The important thing is to have the conversations with your loved one so that expectations on all sides remain realistic.

  • Author — Last Edited: January 26, 2018
    Photo of Beth Leipholtz
    Beth Leipholtz
    Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. In her day-to-day life, she works as a reporter at the local newspaper. Her passions are writing about recovery at, doing graphic design, and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. She hopes her writing can bring clarity to other young people struggling with addiction and let them know they are far from alone.

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