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How Do I Support Someone Going Through Recovery from Drug Addiction?

by Rachel

My best friend and boyfriend recently entered a drug rehabilitation program. The past couple of months have been a living hell for me, as he slipped further into a destructive addiction to prescription medication.

The problem progressed to intravenous drug use, and I witnessed a distinct change in his physical appearance and behavior. Throughout the past few months, I have received advice from Al-Anon members and articles about resisting co-dependency and "helping" the addict without enabling them.

He moved out and we kept communication, but I constantly tried to disconnect myself from the effects of his drug use, this being the only way I could continue a healthy and sober life. As you can imagine, I was relieved and happy when he entered a rehabilitation program.

Because I love him and want to be a positive influence in the process of him returning to a completely sober lifestyle, I am seeking advice on how to support him emotionally throughout the rehab process. I know that one cannot change/control/fix an addict. I also know that relapse is a constant concern for the family and friends of a recovering addict.

I would like to hear any specific advice on what I can do to uplift, support, and encourage him in this process, as well as information on how to continue our relationship throughout and after his rehabilitation.


Hi Rachel

You support your boyfriend as you have done thus far - not try to 'change/fix/control' him. He needs to find his own way in recovery - and the best thing you can do for him is give him the space and freedom to do that.

Many addicts new in recovery that go onto achieve long-term sobriety from their addiction, often have a very single-minded approach where their recovery and doing everything associated with that, e.g. meetings, working the 12 steps, spending time with their sponsor - is their primary focus, especially initially.

Hopefully that happens with your boyfriend after he leaves rehab - and you need to see that as a good thing, and not take it personally. Because if he isn't totally focused on recovery from his addiction and doing the 'work' - the chance of him relapsing are high.

However having this single-minded focus on recovery can put strain on a relationship because the remaining partner feels neglected. That's why you need to be strong and secure enough to allow your boyfriend the freedom and space to really commit to his recovery.

As a general rule - its recommended that drugs addicts and alcoholics don't get into a new relationship until they've reached at least a year's sobriety. Not only because they need the space to really find themselves in recovery, but also because they're still very emotionally vulnerable and any upheaval from a relationship can trigger a relapse.

But obviously for existing relationships that doesn't work, but at the same time you need to be aware of that so that you don't inadvertently get in the way of his healing process. So do everything you can to encourage your boyfriend to totally commit to his recovery - and make it clear to him that that should be his priority and that you're happy for your relationship to take a back seat while he embeds a life of sobriety.

Lets just hope that the 'penny drops' for your boyfriend while he's in rehab - and he really decides that he wants a life of sobriety and will do everything he can to achieve it. Because rehab is just about giving the necessary 'tools' - how he chooses to use them will ultimately determine his success.

I hope everything works out as you want it to, but you also need to trust and let go that everything will turn out as its meant to. Good luck and take care.

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