How to Support Family Members Who Are Recovering Alcoholics

How to Support Family Members Who Are Recovering Alcoholics

Updated on December 17th, 2020

Addiction recovery is a long-term process and a highly-individualized one at that. No one person’s recovery journey will be identical to another’s, and as a family member or friend of an addicted loved one, it’s important to remember that you play a vital role in this process.

What Is the Success Rate for Recovering Alcoholics?

Estimates show that 90 percent of alcoholics will have at least one relapse before achieving lasting sobriety.1 However, persistence is key. How a person handles a relapse often determines their success in achieving lasting sobriety and getting back on track quickly after a relapse is very advantageous.

Determining the success rate for recovering alcoholics is very complex because many different factors can influence a person’s success rate in recovery, such as:

  • Personal motivation and participation in recovery programming: Someone who is highly motivated to stay sober and actively participates in 12-Step groups or similar self-help programming is much more likely to stay sober than someone who is not motivated or actively involved in his or her own recovery.
  • Recovery support system: Individuals with a strong support system are also more likely to stay sober. Although meeting with a therapist or counselor regularly is great, it’s also important to have supportive friends, family members, and a sponsor. Many people also have a higher power from which they can draw spiritual strength to guide them through their recovery journey.
  • Medication-assisted treatment: There are many different medications that doctors use to help people in recovery fight off cravings, reduce the discomfort of withdrawal, or prevent relapses, such as disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. These medications can be extremely helpful for people in recovery, especially in the early stages of sobriety.

These factors are all very influential for the success rates of recovering alcoholics, but participation in a well-rounded treatment program and aftercare like sober living is essential. People who complete formal treatment programs receive recovery tools, guidance, and structure that aren’t available to those who choose to quit cold turkey on their own.

Is It Okay to Drink Around a Recovering Alcoholic?

It may be okay to drink around a recovering alcoholic, but it is largely dependent on your relationship with the recovering alcoholic and many other factors. Ultimately, it is up to the person in recovery to manage their addiction and stay sober, but the person’s environment plays a powerful role in their ability to maintain lasting sobriety. As such, you may want to consider the following situations.

  • If the recovering alcoholic is brand new to recovery and does not have a lot of experience being sober, family members and friends may choose to remove all alcoholic beverages from family events and instead provide more non-alcoholic beverage options. They may also choose not to play drinking games or attend alcohol-centered events with the person in recovery.
  • In instances where alcohol is present, such as a private family party, a recovering alcoholic may bring a +1 who is also sober. This person can provide additional sobriety support and help the individual leave early if it becomes necessary. Some family members or friends may still choose to abstain out of solidarity and support.
  • If the recovering alcoholic has several years of experience being sober, he or she may feel comfortable attending family events or parties where alcohol is present. In this instance, family members and friends may feel more comfortable drinking around a recovering alcoholic.
  • If a person is recovering from alcoholism but chooses not to share that publicly, it may be best for the person hosting the event to provide a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. This makes the event more inclusive without making special accommodations for the person in recovery.

Although it can be awkward, if it’s possible, have a conversation with the recovering alcoholic to determine his or her preference.

What Are the Chances My Loved One Will Relapse?

man comforts his girlfriend who relapsed

There is no way to predict whether your loved one will relapse or not, but the amount of recovery support they receive plays a direct role in their ability to stay sober. They must also have the desire to be an active participant in their recovery programming and be committed to the process.

Initially getting sober is an essential part of recovery, but it is only the beginning. Alcoholics in recovery often need the support of their loved ones to maintain their sobriety after detox and rehab are over. And let’s face it—it’s much easier to stay sober when you have a tribe of supportive and motivating friends and family members in your corner.

How to Support an Alcoholic in Recovery

Although you cannot make decisions and life choices for your loved one, there are several things you can do to support them as they learn to embrace a lifestyle of sobriety. If you have a loved one who is a recovering alcoholic, here are several things you can do to provide personal support and encouragement daily.

Remove all alcoholic beverages from your home.

If your loved one will be transitioning out of a sober living home and moving back home soon, you may want to remove all the alcoholic beverages from your home. If you don’t want to get rid of them completely, you can always store them in a safe location away from your home, such as a storage unit or a locked cellar. Removing these substances from the living environment will make it easier for your loved one to resist temptation. It will also provide a safe, supportive, and sober place where he or she can focus on rebuilding his or her life.

Join an alcoholic family support group.

Facing the disease of addiction as a family is not an easy thing to do. Addiction burrows its way into all aspects of family life and causes severe turmoil and conflict. While your loved one is enrolled in a transitional housing program, it’s important for you and your loved ones to find outlets for personal support. There are plenty of support groups that are designed to help family members of addicted loved ones. These groups provide opportunities to connect with other individuals in similar situations, offer a safe place for family members to express their anger, frustration, and hurt, and give individuals a chance to improve their communication skills. If you’re interested in joining a local support group, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence suggests checking out one of the following organizations.1

  • Al-Anon Family Groups
  • Nar-anon Family Groups
  • CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous)
  • ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics)

Avoid enabling behaviors.

In rehab, your loved one learned the importance of taking responsibility for his or her actions. As he or she continues the recovery process with a transitional housing program, it is very important that you let your loved one assume his or her own responsibilities. Although you may feel like you are helping or taking care of your loved one by solving all of their problems, you may actually be enabling and encouraging the negative behaviors that contributed to their addiction in the first place.2 It’s not always easy to watch a loved one struggle, but by stepping in and doing things for them all the time, you are actually hindering their recovery process and making it more difficult for them to learn how to live an independent, sober life.

Be intentional about your words and actions.

Physical and verbal support can be just as encouraging and helpful as attending family counseling sessions or paying for a sober living program. You may choose to provide verbal support by verbalizing the fact that you are proud of the choices and lifestyle changes your loved one is making to better him or herself. If you’re not comfortable vocally expressing this, you can always write a letter or a short note and give it to your loved one. You can also show your ongoing support with your actions. If your loved one needs a ride to his or her support group meeting, make time to take him or her if possible. If your loved one needs help filling out a job application or updating a resume, make it a priority to be available and help. These actions will show your loved one that you are there to provide support, encouragement, and accountability throughout their recovery process.

Be a good example.

One of the best things you can do to support your loved one is to be a good example. Whether you like it or not, you are a role model for your loved one and he or she will be influenced by your words and actions. Here are a few ways you can be a good example for your loved one in recovery:

  • Be mindful of your own drinking habits or don’t drink at all.
  • Practice healthy self-care by eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, and getting at least eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Regularly attend your family support group meetings or individual therapy sessions.
  • Volunteer or be an active part of your community.
  • Treat others with kindness and respect.

Introduce Them to Sober Friends

Building a sober peer network will help your loved one maintain their abstinence and build meaningful, healthy relationships with others who support their sobriety goals. Now that your loved one is out of rehab, he or she will be faced with a choice: hang out with old substance-using friends or make new ones. It’s easy to fall back into old habits with old friends and making new friends isn’t always easy, especially while making such a huge transition. You can help a loved one build a healthy, sober peer network by introducing them to great sober people that you know and trust and discussing ways they can potentially meet new sober friends in their area.

Attend Family Therapy

In some instances, it may be appropriate and encouraged that you attend family therapy with your loved one. If so, you should make every effort to attend as often as required. Just as addiction is a family disease, recovery is a family endeavor as well. Effective addiction treatment should involve the family unit. By attending family group sessions, you are not only making an outward commitment to support your loved one, but you are also making an internal commitment to adjust and change some of your own unhealthy behaviors and thoughts. During family therapy, you will gain an additional understanding of your loved one’s addiction and learn about different tools and strategies for effective communication, healing, and healthy relationship-building practices.

Familiarize Yourself with Relapse Risks and Prevention

Relapse looks different for everyone, but the more familiar you are with your loved one’s relapse risks, warning signs, and prevention plan, the more equipped you’ll be to help them recover from it. Take the time to sit down with your loved one and discuss red flags and warning signs of relapse.  Determine what you will do and how you will do it if you begin to recognize signs of a relapse. You may also want to discuss your loved one’s relapse prevention plan with their treatment provider to gain additional resources and advice on how to recognize and handle a relapse situation.

Support for Families of Alcoholics

 family has a group session

Families are severely affected by alcoholism, often causing serious, life-altering problems like:

  • Emotional and physical neglect
  • Financial instability
  • Marital conflict or infidelity
  • Domestic violence
  • Divorce
  • Emotional problems like depression or anxiety
  • Decreased performance at school or work
  • Difficulty making friends or forming relationships

If your loved one is recovering from alcoholism, it’s important to be supportive, but there are also many ways you can get help for yourself too, such as:

  • Family therapy and family workshops offered through your loved one’s treatment center
  • Al-Anon Family Groups
  • Individual counseling or therapy

Refusing to get help for yourself can negatively impact your physical and mental health and you may also have a greater risk for developing a substance use disorder if you try to deal with the above issues on your own.

What Are the Benefits of Recovering As a Family?

All of this may seem like a lot of work and effort to put forth for someone who may not even honor their commitment to stay sober. After all, many family members and loved ones of addicted people find that they are somewhat jaded after several broken promises of sobriety.

However, group healing is still a vital part of the recovery process, and although you may have already completed a family program during drug rehab, it takes continual work to recover from addiction as a family. 

As you continue working the 12 steps and making your amends, all of your efforts may contribute to establishing healthy and wholesome relationships with your loved ones. So if you’re unsure of whether it’s worth all the effort, here are eight amazing benefits of family recovery you can look forward to.

1. Better communication

While you were actively addicted, you may have lied to your family, picked fights, or manipulated your way through difficult circumstances. In recovery, things will ideally be different. Ongoing treatment after rehab like IOP teaches us how to move forward after addiction, and begin expressing feelings and emotions respectfully and honestly for the improvement of our relationships. Better communication can also lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation for one another.

2. Support

Knowing you have your loved ones’ support can go a long way in recovery and it can also be a great reminder that your sobriety has an impact on your family’s well-being and happiness. The recovery process is full of ups and downs, but having your family’s support in sobriety can help strengthen your resolve and confidence. Being a member of a supportive family unit can also provide a sense of community in recovery and remind you that there is more to life than your own personal struggle with addiction.

3. Connection

Social connection, whether it’s through friends, other sober living residents, or your family members, provides assurance that you’re not alone in recovery. Getting sober can be extremely isolating, especially if you come from a home or social circle where drug and alcohol abuse is the norm. Fortunately, connecting with your loved ones is a big part of the recovery process as you learn how to support one another through the daily challenges of sobriety.

4. Less blame

People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol frequently blame others for the consequences of their drug-abusing behaviors. An important aspect of recovery is learning how to take responsibility for your actions, and as a result, forego the blame game. Instead of blaming one another for wrongdoings, you and your family members can finally begin to forgive one another for past mistakes and work on improving behaviors today.

5. Forgiveness

Addiction runs in families but so does forgiveness and recovery. Taking the step to confront deep wounds and forgive one another is a powerful thing. It takes courage, but when family members forgive one another and make the choice to do better in recovery, they are released from all that baggage and can freely walk in a more positive direction together.

6. Emotional healing

With sobriety, connection, forgiveness, and support also comes emotional healing. Continued family involvement in the recovery process can help family members understand their attitudes and behaviors in response to a loved one’s addiction. With that understanding, the person can decide to respond in a way that is more effective. Emotional healing is also important on an individual level for the person in recovery. When the focus is personal growth and emotional maturity, the risk of relapse decreases.

7. Honesty

Among families that struggle with addiction, secrecy is common and honesty is often punished. Transitioning from a lifestyle of secrecy and shame into one of openness and honesty takes time and hard work, but families can recover together and create a healthy home environment that nurtures open and real communication. Honesty in recovery isn’t always easy, but it’s an important part of building genuine relationships.

8. Focus on the future instead of the past

When we focus on past mistakes, it’s easy to blame one another for the pain, the financial difficulties, or the lies. However, when families take on addiction recovery as a team and a cohesive family unit, the focus is much more likely to be on the future, and what can be, instead of what was.

Sober Living Programs for Alcoholics in Recovery

Addiction recovery is primarily supported through healthy relationships and social support networks.3 Family members of recovering alcoholics are essential to the recovery process and can provide the support and encouragement an individual needs to maintain his or her sobriety on a long-term basis.

If your friend or loved one is struggling to get the support they need to stay sober, a sober living might be a great fit. Sober living homes offer gender-specific, supportive, and substance-free transitional housing for people in recovery. Additional recovery support services are also available, including regular drug testing, certified peer support programs, IOP, and employment assistance to help clients acclimate back into society after addiction treatment.

At Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, we believe family involvement is very important for our clients’ recovery. Our transitional living programs are designed to involve family members and loved ones in every aspect of our programs with regular progress reports, reliable drug and alcohol test results, and access to your loved one’s Program Coordinator.

If you’d like to learn more about our sober living homes and other potential ways you can support your loved one while he or she is enrolled in a transitional housing program, please contact Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today.


  1. https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/family-disease
  2. https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/helping-a-family-member-or-friend
  3. https://www.samhsa.gov/recovery
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