Supporting A Loved One Through Recovery

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Supporting A Loved One Through Recovery

About the Author: Christine Graves, BSN, RN, works as a Charge Nurse at the Human Services Center (HSC) and serves the patients of the Gateway Treatment Program. She earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Nursing and Psychology from the University of South Dakota. Chris enjoys spending time with her family and friends, walking, and spending time outdoors.

Chances are you probably know someone who has been affected by addiction. With over 48 million people being diagnosed with a substance use disorder in 2022 (U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2022 National Survey Drug Use and Health Annual Report), anyone can suffer from addiction at any time during their life. This may be a family member, co-worker, friend, or neighbor. The term recovery refers to the process where an individual has abstained from the use of drugs or alcohol to improve their overall health and wellness. Below are some tips for you to help an individual achieve a better life and for you to understand more fully how the supports offered to a loved one in recovery can positively impact their journey.

Educate Yourself: Addiction is a chronic disease where you do not have control over doing, taking, or using something to the point where it could be harmful. Addiction is typically classified as using drugs or alcohol; however, shopping, food, screen time, and gambling addictions are common, as well. Being able to recognize that addiction is a life-long disease that may require different treatment methods such as counseling and medications. Encouragement/support is also beneficial as you support an individual you love in recovery.

Be Patient: It is a rare person who can change their behavior overnight. In early recovery, they may still make poor decisions. Healing and growth will take time and discipline. If setbacks and relapses with drugs and alcohol occur, continue to show love, concern, and support. Remember that they are building a new life that is unfamiliar to them.

Listen: People who are in recovery have a lot of appointments and meetings to attend. Despite being around others who are in recovery, they may feel lonely and overwhelmed at times. Being present and engaged in conversation with them as they share information with you is an important part of being supportive. Paraphrasing what they are telling you also shows them that you are actively listening.

Know the Signs of Relapse: The definition of relapse is the use of drugs or alcohol after a period of not using drugs or alcohol. Relapse happens frequently, with up to 40% to 60% of individuals relapsing within 30 days of leaving an inpatient treatment program, and up to 85% of individuals relapsing within the first year of recovery (National Institutes of Health). Relapsing can be an important experience for individuals, as it typically solidifies their commitment to recovery. Although everyone is different, knowing the signs of relapse can help prompt them to seek professional help to get them back on track. Some warning signs include associating with persons with whom or places at which prior use took place, suspicious changes in mood and behavior, or glamorizing the past and prior substance use.

Encourage New and Healthy Activities: One of the hardest things for those in early recovery is finding activities that do not involve drugs or alcohol. Whether it be eating healthy, getting enough sleep, physical exercise, or practicing open and honest communication, you can show support by practicing these healthy habits yourself. Not only do these activities improve your overall health and wellness, but it can also be a source of bonding and healing between you and the person in recovery.

Find Your Own Support: Supporting a loved one in recovery can take a toll on your own mental and physical health. Practicing self-care is not only an important part for everyday life, but it also demonstrates recovery related behaviors to the person in recovery. Support groups, such as Al-Anon and Alateen, are specific to those whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. SMART Recovery is another evidence-informed support group for those who have been touched by addiction.

In conclusion, addiction is a common condition that can affect anyone. There are several different ways that you can support an individual who is in recovery. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, call, text, or chat 988 to connect with local professionals at the Helpline Center.

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The mission of the Human Services Center is to provide individuals with a mental health or substance use disorder or both with effective, individualized professional treatment enabling them to achieve their highest level of personal independence in the most therapeutic environment.


The mission of the Division of Behavioral Health is to strengthen and support children and adults through community-based substance use disorder and mental health treatment services, crisis and prevention services, recovery support services, and psychiatric hospitalization.  


To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo visit