Ways to Support a Loved One Deciding to Get Sober

Helping wife to get sober

A person often comes to the point during an addiction where they begin to realize that they have a problem. After this occurs, it may take time for them to admit that they need to do something about their situation before things worsen. While some people require an intervention to go to treatment, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Usually, once a person sees that they need treatment, they know that they have a problem.

However, it may take a while for this person to admit this to someone else, and even after they have taken that step, it may take even longer for them to agree to go to help. Getting sober can be scary initially; for someone addicted to a substance, there is nothing more terrifying in the world than trying to imagine life without their drug of choice. But, on the other hand, there is also nothing scarier in the world than imagining never breaking free from addiction.

If you have a loved one who is in the beginning stages of considering the idea of getting sober, here are some practical things that you can do to help your loved one during this process.

1. Thank them for telling you.

Admitting to having an addiction can be a challenging step. Often it takes a long time for a person to get to the point that they are willing to tell other people that they have a problem. Because it can be so hard for someone to admit that they have a substance abuse problem, they must receive support and compassion when this occurs. It is helpful to thank a person who has opened up to you in this way because by doing so, they are showing you a great deal of trust. You never know how far even a little bit of support in early recovery can go.

2. Help them research treatment options.

Helping find a rehab

There are so many different types of treatment options available for addiction right now. Unfortunately, not all programs are created equal, and it is essential to do your research and find the program that will be the best fit for your loved one’s needs. In my opinion, programs that run at least 2–3 months tend to have higher success rates. A 28-day program isn’t long enough for a person to fully address their problem. It is also a good idea to find a program that will focus on multiple aspects of the addiction and treat the many levels with the person who is attending.

3. Help with setting up tours at treatment facilities.

It can be a lot of work getting tours and interviews set up with treatment facilities. Early recovery is very overwhelming, so if you can help your loved one set up times to visit treatment programs, this will be a huge help. Sometimes having a support person there for the ride makes a huge difference as well. Letting your loved one know that they don’t have to do this all on their own can give them the extra push needed to get things going.

4. Offer a shoulder to cry on.

Deciding to get sober can be a scary thing. There will often be a lot of emotions that will go along with such a significant change. Most people will have many tears as they realize that they need help, and this is okay. However, if you can listen to your loved one and give the extra emotional support they need to get through this tough time, it will go a long way towards helping them get better just knowing that you care.

5. Give encouragement and non-judgmental support.

Have you ever made a mistake and then told someone about it, looking for help and then have them turn on you and tell you how terrible you are? It doesn’t feel good. While the chances are that your loved one has hurt you during their addiction, this isn’t the best time to go over those issues. There will usually be a point where you can work through past hurts with your loved one. Early on, the best thing you can do is give lots of encouragement and do your best not to be judgmental. No one wants to open up to someone they feel is judging them.

Man taking care of the dog

6. Offer to help them while they are in treatment.

If you can help your loved one while they are in treatment, this will make their time in rehab go a lot smoother. There are several different ways you can go about doing this. Sending a care package, writing letters, giving encouraging phone calls, taking care of their house, pets, or kids are just a few examples of ways that you can help your loved one while they are in rehab. The more external support a person has while in treatment, the easier it will be to focus on healing and work on recovery.

7. Research addiction and gain a better understanding of the recovery process.

If you are willing and able to learn about addiction and the recovery process, you will be in a much better position to help your loved one throughout their journey. To someone who has never dealt with an addiction firsthand, it can seem like a pretty crazy thing. Addiction has many things that often don’t make sense. Drugs make people say and do things they usually wouldn’t. It isn’t easy to deal with, but that is just the truth about the situation. If you can learn more about the reasoning behind all of the craziness, you will be much better off; this not only helps your loved one but will also help you.

8. Reach out for professional help.

Sometimes the families of people struggling with addiction will suffer from their own issues due to their loved ones’ addiction problems. Addiction is something that harms everyone connected to it. Because addiction can be so damaging to relationships, it may be a good idea to reach out for some form of help for yourself as well. There are plenty of resources and support groups out there for people who have loved ones struggling with addiction. Just like your loved one, you also do not have to go through this process alone.

9. Offer your loved one help but do not enable them.

You must never enable a person who has an addiction. While enablement may feel like helping at the moment, it does more harm than good in the long run. If you are unsure of the difference, reading up on the differences between helping someone and enabling them would be wise. In the most basic form, enablement allows someone to remain the same by not allowing them to experience the negative consequences of their actions. Helping someone is giving them a hand up to help them get better.

10. Show them love and compassion.

The number one thing you can do to help a loved one in recovery is simply show them love and compassion. Love is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Everyone needs to feel loved and accepted by their family.

Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC



After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.