People in recovery for substance use disorder often feel isolated and shameful about their addiction. They may also feel uncertain about how to interact in social settings without using substances. Strong support and acceptance from loved ones is an important piece of maintaining recovery. Read our tips for how you can support your loved one during social interactions as they navigate recovery.

  1. Get creative with social activities. Every gathering doesn’t need to be a party or revolve around alcohol and other substances. Think of healthy ways you can spend time with your loved one in recovery. Hiking, cooking a homemade meal or even just taking a casual walk are great ways to socialize. You could even start an exercise routine together. Being active is beneficial for the mind and the body, and the exercise could become a wonderful part of your routines.
  1. Make sure they’re included. Social connections are an important part of recovery because addiction is a disease that thrives in isolation. When socializing with a loved one in recovery, do your best to make sure they are being included in the activities. They may not feel comfortable discussing their recovery in a group setting. If so, make sure to steer the conversation to a new topic if they begin to feel uncomfortable. It’s important to make them know they are welcome and not being judged. 
  1. Be mindful of their triggers. This is always important, but try to be especially mindful if you’re hosting or planning the social gathering. It may be beneficial to reach out to your loved one before the event and ask how to avoid anything that may feel triggering. They may prefer to move the gathering from a bar to a restaurant or request that alcohol not be served at your dinner party. Even if they say they’re comfortable with the plans, reaching out shows you care and leaves the door open for them to speak up if they are uncomfortable in the future.
  2. Don’t pressure them. If your loved one is new to recovery, they may be a bit uncomfortable in social atmospheres where they previously wouldn’t. Seeing old friends or revisiting activities they enjoyed before recovery may be too overwhelming at first. Be patient and try not to pressure them. If it seems like they’re declining more invitations than usual or leaving events early, try to be understanding of what they need to do to cope and find other ways to spend time with them.

The best way to support your loved one is to just be there. Offering a listening ear is so important and shows you are invested in their recovery. Check in with them to see how they are coping, so they know they are not alone. If someone you know is struggling with addiction, we’re here to help. Use the chat on our website or call 833-505-HOPE for more information.

Anna M. Gaddy

Anna Gaddy is Vice President, Behavioral Health for CleanSlate.