How Do I Help a Recovering Alcoholic?

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

How Do I Help a Recovering Alcoholic?

Table of Contents

There are many reasons someone might need help recovering from alcohol addiction. Whether it’s a family member, friend, or loved one, understanding the key steps to help them recover can be difficult. With the proper knowledge and support system, you can help your loved ones make positive changes and build healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

What is Alcohol Addiction and Substance Abuse Recovery?

Alcohol addiction and substance abuse recovery are recognizing the signs and symptoms of addiction, creating a plan for professional treatment, maintaining sobriety, and rebuilding life skills. The entire process should be done in an environment that provides professional assistance and support. This will help ensure that someone struggling with alcohol or substance abuse can get the best possible care to make a full recovery.

A recovering alcoholic may be going through alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, tremors, or other physical and emotional challenges. During this recovery period, it’s important to provide understanding and empathy for what they are going through while still offering guidance and support during difficult times. This is why studies show alcohol use disorder requires continued rehab and therapy.

Understanding the Stages of Alcohol Addiction and Substance Abuse Recovery

Alcohol addiction and substance abuse recovery is usually divided into three stages: detoxification, rehabilitation, and aftercare. Understanding each stage is important to provide the best possible support for your loved one.


The first stage of recovery is detoxification from alcohol use. During this stage, the body rids itself of all toxins and alcohol while managing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. This process can be uncomfortable and challenging for those who abuse alcohol, so it’s important to provide emotional support.



Once the body has been cleansed of toxins and withdrawal symptoms, have been managed, rehabilitation will begin. During this stage, the person struggling with addiction will receive counseling and therapy to help them identify triggers for substance abuse and develop coping mechanisms to prevent relapse. Rehabilitation in alcohol treatment is one of the most crucial steps in the recovery process.



The third and final stage of recovery is aftercare. This involves developing healthy habits, forming a strong support system, and learning new life skills to help someone stay sober long-term. Aftercare can include attending support group meetings and therapy sessions to provide continued accountability and encouragement.


Addiction Treatment Beyond Recovery

Recovery from alcohol use disorder is possible, but staying sober long-term requires ongoing work. Addiction treatment involves the initial recovery and continuing therapy and support to sustain sobriety over time.

Studies show continuing care helps individuals in recovery maintain a solid understanding of their condition and how it affects their life and relationships. It also supports managing daily life, including stressors that could lead to relapse.

Various forms of continuing care exist. But, the most important element is sustained support and guidance. This includes regular therapy sessions with a mental health professional, peer-led recovery groups or discussion meetings, and online support communities. Having a strong network of people around you who understand your struggles can be helpful in staying sober.

Continuing care also involves recognizing and managing triggers, specific people, situations, or times of day that could cause a relapse. Taking the time to monitor yourself and identify potential relapse triggers is essential for long-term sobriety.


Understanding the Triggers of a Recovering Alcoholic

Since recovery is a lifelong process, the first step in helping an alcoholic recover is understanding the causes and triggers of their drinking. Alcoholism is a complex disorder, and there are many potential contributing factors.

Common triggers that cause an alcoholic to relapse include:

  • Stress – Stress can often be a strong trigger for drinking. Too much stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, which may drive someone to drink.
  • Unresolved emotions – Sometimes, unresolved emotions around past events or relationships can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol.
  • Social pressure – Especially for younger people, there can be peer pressure to drink alcohol or fit in with a particular group.
  • Physical triggers – Alcoholics often experience physical cravings that make it hard to resist the urge to drink.

Understanding these triggers and finding ways to avoid them are essential components of recovery from alcoholism. Educating family and friends about these triggers can also help keep an alcoholic away from alcohol.

Other aspects of recovery from alcoholism include:

  • Engaging in a holistic treatment program that combines individual counseling, group therapy, and lifestyle changes.
  • Joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
  • Making meaningful connections with positive role models and mentors who can provide support and encouragement.
  • Developing healthy coping skills such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or exercise.
  • Finding activities that bring joy while avoiding places or people associated with drinking.


What You Can Do to Help a Recovering Alcoholic

If you know someone trying to recover from alcohol addiction, it’s important to provide them with the necessary support. Here are some tips on how you can help:

  1. Show understanding and acceptance: It’s essential for those in recovery to feel that they are not being judged or criticized. Let the person know that their struggle is valid and that you are here to help.
  2. Provide emotional support: Acknowledge their feelings and listen to them without judgment or criticism. Knowing someone is willing to talk and understand their situation can be a great comfort.
  3. Offer practical assistance: Many tasks require attention when someone is in recovery, from attending meetings to submitting insurance forms. Offer your help or assistance in whatever way you can. Talk to the treatment provider to accommodate the patient’s mental illness.
  4. Help them stay active: Recovery is a difficult journey, and it can often be tough for people to remain engaged and motivated. Encourage the person to do activities that make them feel good—exercise, hobbies, volunteer work—so that they stay on track with their goals.
  5. Encourage healthy habits: Good nutrition, a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding triggers are all important components of recovery. Suggest healthy activities for them to enjoy or offer to shop for groceries instead of them buying alcohol at the store.
  6. Check-in regularly: Having someone they can depend on is essential for people in recovery. Show your friend that you care by checking in often and offering your support. They might have questions like can alcoholics go back to casual drinking, and you need to make sure they don’t relapse.
  7. Stay sober: Setting a good example for someone in recovery is important, so avoiding drinking or using drugs around them is best. This will help keep the temptation away, and they will have you as an example of how sobriety can still be enjoyable.
  8. Celebrate success: As someone in recovery makes progress, show your appreciation. Celebrate the small achievements and help your friend stay motivated by reminding them how far they’ve come.


Tips on Preventing Relapse

Relapse is a common and normal part of the recovery process, but understanding the warning signs and having a plan in place can help prevent it. Here are some tips on preventing relapse for someone you care about:

  1. Know the warning signs: If you are familiar with the signs of a potential relapse, such as increased stress levels or avoiding social situations, you can help by providing support early on.
  2. Build a support network: A strong support system prevents relapse. Encourage your friend to build relationships with others in recovery and seek help when needed.
  3. Encourage self-care: Self-care is essential for prevention and recovery, so remind your friend to make time for themselves. Suggest activities that address their physical and emotional needs, such as exercise, meditation, or counseling.
  4. Stay connected: It’s important to stay connected with the person in recovery to offer support. Regularly check in and let them know that you are there for them, no matter what.
  5. Offer practical help: If your friend struggles with cravings or manages daily tasks, offer to help out however you can. Offer to accompany them to meetings or activities and provide assistance as needed.


Finding Help Near You

Helping a recovering alcoholic can be exhausting and emotionally draining and can even interfere with one’s life. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help those in need. There is a wide range of support groups for individuals recovering from alcoholism, ranging from online group meetings to in-person support groups. You can even turn to facilities for alcohol treatment for a loved one.

At NuView Treatment Center, our team of dedicated professionals is here to help individuals in recovery find the resources and support they need to return to living a life free of alcohol dependence. Contact us at (323) 307 – 7997 or email us at to learn more about how we can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best way to support a recovering alcoholic is to provide them with access to resources and treatment programs. This could include attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, researching local rehabilitation centers, offering emotional support, or connecting with other support groups such as Al-Anon. To maintain healthy boundaries—avoid enabling behavior or encouraging addictive behaviors. Most importantly, listening without judgment and understanding the individual’s recovery process.

Warning signs that someone may be at risk for relapse include an increase in stress levels, poor adherence to treatment plans, changes in attitude or behavior (e.g., increased isolation or mood changes), and an increase in cravings. If you notice any of these signs, offering support and encouraging the individual to seek help from a mental health professional is important. You can also help by providing resources for relapse prevention strategies, such as attending AA meetings or engaging in cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Long-term alcohol abuse can have serious physical and mental health consequences. These can include liver disease, heart problems, cancer, depression, anxiety, impaired cognitive functioning, and more. It's important to be aware of these risks to ensure that individuals recovering from alcoholism receive the necessary treatment and support they need to maintain sobriety.

Making lifestyle changes can be important in supporting recovery from alcoholism. This could include increasing physical activity, engaging in healthy hobbies and activities, eating a balanced diet, avoiding triggers, and developing positive coping skills such as mindfulness practice or journaling. It's also important to foster healthy relationships and connect with a support system that can provide encouragement and help maintain sobriety.

If you know someone who is struggling with alcohol addiction, it's important to offer them your understanding and support. Encourage them to seek professional help and provide resources for treatment options. Additionally, you can offer emotional support by listening without judgment and providing a safe space to talk about their experiences and feelings. Remember that recovery takes time, and you must be patient and understanding of the individual’s journey.

Several organizations and groups are available to support those recovering from alcoholism. These could include attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, connecting with other support networks such as Al-Anon or SMART Recovery, researching local rehabilitation centers or clinics, or seeking free online resources about addiction recovery.

Mental health is an important aspect of alcohol recovery. Many individuals struggle with underlying psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, or trauma that can lead to addiction. In some cases, treating these mental health issues may be necessary for a full recovery from alcoholism. So, it's important to seek professional help to address any underlying causes and provide the individual with the appropriate mental health resources and support.

There are many ways to provide a better support system for someone in recovery from alcoholism. These could include offering emotional and practical support, attending meetings or classes together, listening without judgment, providing encouragement and praise for the individual's successes, and avoiding enabling or codependent behavior. It can also be helpful to provide resources for treatment options and relapse prevention strategies. Above all, it's important to respect the individual’s decision-making process and support them in their recovery journey every step.

  1. McKay J. R. (2021). Impact of Continuing Care on Recovery From Substance Use Disorder. Alcohol research : current reviews, 41(1), 01.
  2. Wackernah, R. C., Minnick, M. J., & Clapp, P. (2014). Alcohol use disorder: pathophysiology, effects, and pharmacologic options for treatment. Substance abuse and rehabilitation, 5, 1–12.
  3. Melemis S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88(3), 325–332.
  4. Tucker, J. A., Chandler, S. D., & Witkiewitz, K. (2020). Epidemiology of Recovery From Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol research : current reviews, 40(3), 02.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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