How do you help someone stay the course in recovery, either by staying in rehab or following through on their recovery plan? Sometimes you can’t. That’s just the way it is. Furthermore, being engaged in someone else’s recovery is very tricky. You need strong boundaries, clear expectations and lots of time for trust to return.


Meanwhile, addiction recovery can be a very isolating experience, even if, sadly, helping can be counter-productive. Sometimes helping just revisits old patterns that were in place before recovery. If it didn’t work then, it isn’t likely to work now. Recovery can also make someone feel very self-conscious. People in recovery can feel they are being watched and judged and, in fact, this might be true. But nobody likes to feel studied by other people any more than necessary.

Recovery can also make someone feel very self-conscious

Here are some guidelines for helping people you love through recovery, helping them to stay the course.


  • Remember the Serenity Prayer


This prayer succinctly states, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”


These wise words are applicable to the addict and to the loved ones. You cannot control the ones you love. There is only so much you can do. Not only should you be aware of your limits, but you should make your peace with them, too.


  • Set Boundaries


Healthy relationships require boundaries. You might be trying to help, but everyone needs privacy once in a while. Addicts, meanwhile, enjoy poor boundaries, because they know how to exploit that when they are trying to get away with something.


  • Trust and Honesty


What is recovery if not a process in which trust and honesty are restored? You need to give this some time. This doesn’t happen overnight.


  • Compartmentalize


You might be angry and frustrated or very sad about the situation you are in with a loved one in recovery from a dangerous addiction. You are within your rights to feel this way, but you don’t need your emotions spilling all over the place. Learn to compartmentalize your emotions. Schedule a time and a place to vent and let those feelings out, then tuck them away and rejoin your productive life. If need be, schedule some more time later for another venting session.


Therapy is a good example of compartmentalizing emotions. It’s the place where you can be angry, sad, confused, frustrated … and, when the session’s over, you pull yourself back together and bravely go out and face the world.


  • Take Care of Yourself


Absolutely, this is priority No. 1. Take care of your health, your spiritual needs, your social needs – the whole ball of wax. The best way to be a good example to a recovering friend or loved one is to be strong. That might mean being a bit more selfish then you are used to being. Do it, anyway.


  • Listen with your gut


Allow your gut reaction to guide you. Are you discussing day-to-day items with someone, but feel you are being manipulated somehow? Have you heard excuses long enough? Sometimes, your best advisor is that nagging feeling that you’re being duped. This doesn’t mean over-react. But don’t let yourself be taken in. Recovering addicts need to know where reality is. Sometimes they lose track.