How to Help a Recovering Alcoholic

by Contributor

For many people, moderate alcohol consumption provides health and social benefits without causing problems, but for recovering alcoholics--those who abstain from alcohol and commit to sobriety--any alcohol creates trouble. Understanding how to help a recovering alcoholic creates a safe environment and healthier relationships for everyone, including the recovering alcoholic.

Allow the recovering alcoholic to accept responsibility for the past, the present and the future. Remember that any successful treatment program requires the alcoholic to want recovery; you can't force someone to seek or sustain sobriety.

Expect accountability. Behind almost every alcoholic, there are networks of people called enablers, whose assistance, cover-ups and excuses allow an alcoholic to function while drinking. To stay sober, recovering alcoholics need to take responsibility for all their actions, even if that means enablers step back and watch them struggle.

Find a support group. Recovering alcoholics require a network of support from professionals and other former-addicts who understand what it's like to live with an alcohol addiction. Look up groups for recovering alcoholics and for family members of alcoholics, so everyone participates in treatment in a healthy way.

Encourage continual participation in treatment. Many recovering alcoholics attend group meetings weekly as a means of support and ongoing healing, and these sessions can help prevent a recovering alcoholic from backsliding.

Provide a supportive, alcohol-free environment. Expect that a recovering alcoholic might struggle in situations where alcohol is present, so plan on spending time together in places without liquor, so you can show support and encouragement without providing temptation.

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  • Read labels. Even common household items like cough syrups and mouthwashes can contain alcohol, and even those trace amounts are dangerous for a recovering alcoholic.


  • Don't harass an alcoholic about seeking treatment. Most professional authorities agree that treatment is unlikely to work unless an alcoholic makes recovery a personal choice.
  • Don't be an enabler by engaging in behaviors that support the alcoholic's drinking.
  • Don't expect recovery to be instantaneous or easy. Admitting to and overcoming an alcohol addiction requires life transformation, a process that takes work and time from everyone involved.

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