A Complete Guide for How to Help an Addict Recover

It’s important for families of addicts to learn how to successfully help an addict recover post-rehab. It’s something my family didn’t research or prepare for prior to my return home. Honestly, I wish they had and was shocked by several insensitive behaviors and situations I was put into.

However, I understand that they didn’t (don’t) know any better. And that’s a big part of my purpose in sharing these ways to help an addict recover. So that other families won’t repeat the same mistakes.

My heroin recovery story involves an unusual detour. Instead of drug rehab, my family was conned into sending me to a Scientology Front Group.

Perhaps, if they had been in touch with a legitimate facility, they may have been informed and guided in their own recovery process. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Addiction is a commonality that plagues the population regardless of financial status, race, or creed. It is imperative that we work together to better understanding this affliction that disables so many of us while advocating for change and working towards rehabilitation reform.

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Help an Addict Recover With a Sober Environment

The most important way to help an addict recover is by ensuring they’re coming home to a sober environment. In fact, the worst environment for an addict to recover in is their old stomping grounds.

Being surrounded by all of their old hangouts and homies can be absolutely detrimental to their recovery. Consider one of these two options for your loved one instead.

Make a Move

How much does their life mean to you? Look, I get it. That question is harsh and insensitive. But with facts reporting a 40-60% relapse rate, drastic times call for save their life measures.

Consider moving to help an addict recover more easily by providing them with a fresh start in a new environment.

I’ve heard people dismiss this solution as being a situation of running from your problems. What? Grab your Nikes and just do it. They’re not running from something. They’re running towards it.

Is moving absolutely out of the question? I understand. For many, it simply is not possible. People are deeply rooted in their network of support, families, careers, and other environmental influences. Furthermore, it’s impossible without financial resources.


Sober-Living Programs

If that’s your situation, then find a reputable sober living program. Sober living homes are residences used for transitioning into sobriety before going home. There are generally four levels for recovery residences. They’re regulated by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR).

Level 1 Recovery Houses

These resemble the Oxford house model and offer the least services and accountability. It’s a social approach governed by a charter and a set of rules that are agreed upon before being accepted into the recovery home. The homes are essentially run by those in recovery, and all members vote on new members and regulations.

There isn’t outside management or supervision. Weekly 12-step meetings are common. But typically other recovery services aren’t provided. However, they are encouraged and often required while living in level one residences.

Level 2 Recovery Houses

Unlike level one residences, level two recovery homes are usually elect a supervisor to monitor and ensure rules are being followed. Furthermore, mandatory drug tests are strictly enforced.

Level 3 Recovery Houses

Unlike level one and two recovery residences, level three is usually operated by paid staff. Additionally, they incorporate parts of clinical treatment, including counseling. Level three recovery houses tend to be more structured with greater accountability.

Level 4 Recovery Houses

These recovery houses use a clinical approach for aftercare treatment and are often referred to as TC’s, or therapeutic communities. They are inpatient facilities that include onsite counseling, peer-support groups, and a structured treatment plan for residents to adhere to. Unlike other recovery houses, level four homes typically don’t allow residents to come and go as they please. Furthermore, they won’t be able to work full-time (if at all) because of structured recovery activities in their day.

Help an Addict Recover by Cleaning up Their Living Space

If helping an addict recover means coming home is their only option after rehab, then at the very least, clean up their living space!

Don’t overlook this step. I realize you may not want to invade their privacy and perhaps fear what you might find. But if you don’t ensure they’re coming home to a clean environment, I can almost guarantee they will find things that could trigger a relapse.

My Return Home

When I came home from my seven months away my room was much worse than when I had left it. Unfortunately, my cat was neglected and his litter box was not well-maintained. As a result, my fairly new, pillow-top queen mattress was destroyed.

Furthermore, my many piles of clutter had become biohazards, and I had to throw everything away. I was angry and honestly couldn’t fully believe this was my homecoming.

Additionally, while cleaning up my cat’s urine-soaked hoard, I found multiple pieces of tin foil with charred heroin remnants. I’m not joking and that isn’t all. I discovered drug baggies with unscraped residue, muscle relaxers, a methadone pill, dirty needles, broken straws, and plastic pen barrels. Those are all very triggering and I wish they hadn’t been there.

Even a homeless junkie has something in that backpack they have hanging off their shoulders. Get rid of it! Go into their room or their home and clean it up. For every unhealthy item that you remove from an addict’s environment, try replacing it with something to encourage health and recovery.

Create a Recovery Space to Help an Addict Recover

Obviously, my family fucked up. And that is putting it nicely. By the grace of God, those circumstances didn’t trigger a relapse. Ultimately, coming home to an immaculate room with a few new welcoming additions would have been more ideal. Clutter and chaos are enemies to recovery and mental health.

Environmental Ideas to Promote Health and Recovery

Gifts that promote comfort will be well received. Do not give cash, gift cards, or anything overly extravagant. Those gifts may not help an addict recover and are often returned, traded, or sold for dope.

Additionally, you should put together a welcome home care package for them. What would be on their list of comfort items? Keep it simple but thoughtful and find gifts that represent them.

Show them that you pay attention to their little things, simple passions, and tiny joys. Remind them that you know who they are in a time when they may feel uncertain of who they are themselves.

If a care package isn’t their style then do what you can to make their welcome home encouraging and special. You know them best. Are they a loner? Book them a spa day alone and let them have that time to be pampered quietly. Chauffer them to get that tattoo, or piercing to commemorate their commitment to sobriety. Celebrate them and their progress.


Help an Addict Recover by Finding a Support Group

Helping an addict recover means immediately reconnecting them with people who are also recovering and can relate. One of the biggest commonalities among addicts is the need to be listened to and understood.

Don’t wait for your loved one to come home before finding resources within your community to help guide their recovery in a healthy direction.

The purpose of these support groups is to get clean and stay sober! Additionally, it’s an opportunity to find fellowship with peopleworking towards the same goal of sobriety.

Way too many rehab centers don’t rehabilitate at all and are only a place to dry out. Be prepared for your loved ones to tell you about their awful experiences. Don’t be surprised by reports of abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, drug rehabs across the globe are failing addicts horribly.

Furthermore, rehab is not a cure for drug addiction. An addict’s journey isn’t over after rehab. Their road to recovery has only just begun.

Finding the Right Meetings to Help an Addict Recover

Honestly, I can think of nothing more loving than doing that work and research for them and ensuring that they have plenty of well-researched options in front of them when they get home. It will help them to remain more grounded and focused on their sobriety. Regardless of the experiences and possible trauma they endured at rehab.

Have you been to a recovery meeting? Attending a meeting is a great way to gain understanding about what your addict has and will continue to go through on their road to recovery.

Did you know that there are recovery meetings every day? In fact, there are meetings designed for specific groups including LGTBQ, gender exclusive, and an addict’s drug of choice (DOC). Help them by finding, researching, and sharing those resources with your newly recovered addict.

Don’t allow them to wind up at a meeting that is predominantly older men when they are a 21-year-old struggling gay woman. Get it? That experience might detour them from going to another meeting. And that could devastate their chances of successfully remaining sober.

Recovery In-Person Meeting Resources

Online and Phone Recovery Meeting Resources

Check out several meetings that help an addict recover and create an addiction resource for their welcome home care package.

Another program that may benefit the addict you love is called Celebrate Recovery. It’s a Christ-centered 12-step program that focuses on helping with addiction. In all its forms. These groups typically meet in churches for an hour or more, once a week.

Family Program and Meeting Resources

These resources provide recovery for families and friends of addicts. Addiction is a family disease, and everyone needs help with recovery. One of the best things you can do for yourself and to help an addict recover is to come together and heal as a family.

Alternatives to the 12-Steps to Help an Addict Recover

For some people, AA/NA meetings aren’t the answer, and that’s ok. There are several alternatives to the 12-steps to help an addict recover.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety (WFS) helps women find their individual path to recovery through the discovery of self. They’re an abstinence-based self-help program. Dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. WFS isn’t affiliated with any other recovery organization and stands on its own philosophy and principles.

Offering a variety of recovery tools that guide women in developing coping skills. Focusing on both spiritual and emotional growth. Furthermore, they work on self-esteem and living a healthy and abstinent lifestyle.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a community of people and families working together globally to resolve addictive problems. They have free group discussion meetings where people learn from each other.

SMART Recovery utilizes a self-empowering approach based on the most accurate science regarding recovery. People discover and develop the power to change themselves and go on to lead healthier and sober lifestyles. They’re guided by their science-based 4-Point Program®.


LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing believes you have the power to overcome addiction and encourages it through secular recovery. Their approach is compatible with a variety of other abstinence-based treatments. And many of their participants are active in other programs. The LifeRing approach believes you are the best person to design your own program and works with you in doing so. Meetings can be face-to-face or online.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety is a collection of programs that are autonomous from each other. SOS offers individuals alternatives to spirituality based recovery programs. And they host both online and real-world meetings to help people overcoming all forms of addiction. 

These programs provide support for people who aren’t spiritual and are looking for alternatives to religious-based teachings and a call to a higher power.

Establish a Homecare Recovery Plan to Help an Addict Recover

After seeking out the best recovery meetings and programs in your community, you’re going to need help! Who is in the addict’s circle of friends and family that is sober and willing to assist in their journey?

Building Their Support Team

Network with people who are able to make sure they get to meetings and other support resources. Create a rotation schedule and share it with the team. Supporters should be willing to attend the meetings. But also understand if the addict would rather they not come in with them. Give them the support they need and bring a book to read in the car.

Additionally, find online programs, books, videos, therapy, a mentor, or whatever it takes to implement some after rehab sobriety care. There needs to be a substantial plan in place. Otherwise, all they have is time, and they quickly return to old habits for filling that time.

Building Their Routine

Regardless of the length of their rehab stay, there’s a good chance your addict is coming home institutionalized. Nobody told me what to expect, and it’s because they were clueless about there being a transitional period.

When I came home from state rehab, I felt extremely discombobulated. Furthermore, there was overwhelming loneliness and relentless quiet that was deafening.

Everyone in my environment resumed life as normal, and I had nothing and no one to engage me. I was unemployed and had no routine or schedule enforced.

My parents scheduled their two-week vacation out of state the day after I came home. My sister (and roommate) was consumed by her online gaming addiction and spent all of her time on a computer with a headset talking to people all over the world and ignoring me.

Implement a routine for them to come home to that can include things such as meals, meetings, and chores. As well as basic responsibilities, family time, church, and journaling. Routine is imperative for success.

What Institutionalized Looks Like

When I got home, I was no longer around a bunch of loud people for 24 hours a day. Realistically, I loathed the juvenile antics of my rehab peers during my stay. But once I was home, I couldn’t sit still. It was too quiet.

Every morning during breakfast, the girls at rehab would play the three TechN9ne videos available OnDemand. For the three days prior to my relapse, I got up every morning and listened to the music I’d once found obnoxious. My day did not feel normal without those videos.

At rehab, Captain crunch berries and caramel apple suckers became daily staples. After I got home, I found myself still eating them. In rehab, we used cups for our cereal. So I continued this behavior. Despite the fact I was home and didn’t use to sit around with a lollipop in my mouth all day, it felt weird without one. So I continued to suck on them all day long.

My sister has never done drugs, and has never been to jail or rehab, and didn’t have any idea what I was going through. While I attempted to get her to understand, she dismissed the videos I played as noise and retreated back to doing her online life. It hurt and I felt confused and alone.

So help an addict recover by asking them how they are doing with adjusting to being outside. Talk to them about institutionalization and explain it’s common and that it’s normal for them to be experiencing the overwhelming confusion they may be faced with.

Listen to them and try to understand and overcome whatever their new little oddities are coming back and adjusting to the world.

Create a Therapy Wellness Plan

My family didn’t consider my mental health or emotional wellbeing upon my release. The pain and anguish associated with the underlying issues are now opened up and need to be expressed in healthy ways. Otherwise, they will manifest unhealthy behaviors again.

Help an addict recover by financing and supporting their therapy. Many addicts have trauma and abuse that they need to process and work through.

Employ a therapist that can help them to do that. A trained professional is the best chance of finding the right tools and methods an addict needs for their recovery process.

Let Them Match With TalkSpace



TalkSpace features over 5000 licensed therapists and is close to 80% cheaper than face-to-face therapy. There are different monthly plans to choose from. Including text, video, and audio messaging. As well as options for live online sessions.

Help an Addict Recover by Building a Foundation of Trust

Trust needs to be earned and not given back freely. Remember, drug rehab is not a cure for drug addiction. Drug addicts are master manipulators and often con their loved ones because of their disease. Proceed with caution and take baby steps.

If they were lying to you before they went away then they are liars and have already established that they’re capable of lying to you.

Importance of Time

Regardless of how honest they appear to be in their newfound recovery, they need to earn back that trust. Do not give it too freely. I know you want to trust them but don’t.

Extending too much trust to them, in the beginning, can be debilitating for their chance at recovery. They may internalize things and start to believe that you’re not concerned with their sobriety.

Even if they don’t want to lie to you, they’re still battling a disease and with relapse statistics being as high as 72-88%, after 12-36 months of opiate detoxification, it’s important that you do not give trust blindly. Coming home is only the beginning of a long road of recovery ahead.

Rehab Relationships

A common phenomenon when attending rehabilitation programs is rehab romances and they’re unhealthy. Drug addicts are codependent and shouldn’t date right away. Especially, during the beginning withdrawal and healing stages of recovery.

Rehab Romances

I realize that some rehab relationships flourish and blossom into something great. I’ve witnessed a few romances develop over the years from the Scientology rehab scam I attended. However, that is not the norm.

During the early stages of recovery, your emotional wellbeing is fragile. Addiction experts advise that you don’t enter into a romantic relationship until one year into recovery. Help an addict recover by guiding them to that education.

So that they will discover this truth without feeling lectured, or preached at. Especially if they’re already violating that advice by coming home in a rehab relationship.

Rehab Friendships

Another huge mistake in an addict’s recovery is believing they can maintain healthy relationships with all the brand-new friends they made at rehab. Help an addict recover by introducing them to opportunities to meet new sober friends on the outside. They’re seeking companionship with someone who relates and listens.

My Rehab Friend

The friend I made in rehab was released three days after I went home, and we relapsed together immediately.

Our Conversation:

Me: Hey girl, oh my God it is so good to hear from you. When did you get out?

Her: I know. I miss you so much. We need to hang out and oh by the way, can you come to pick me up? I just got out and I am dying to see you!

I was two and a half hours away from her but was bored from being home alone with my OnDemand videos and agreed to go. Seriously, I couldn’t wait to feel normal again.

Me: Two and a half hours away? You’re lucky I love you. I feel like no one here even gives a shit. My parents left and my sister is in the other room talking to strangers she games with online. It has been so hard. I’m on my way!!!

Her: Ok see you in two hours. –Fast forward– You are here!!! I’ve been wanting to get high so badly. Do you want a Suboxone strip?

Me: I am dying to get high. Thanks homie!

And the rest writes itself. We scored meth once back to her home county because we rationalized that wasn’t our drug problem, and we couldn’t use heroin on Suboxone.

Rehab Friendship Aftermath

Within a week or two, we were using heroin and meth together. Also, we both switched from smoking drugs to using needles. Rehab had taught us both how much we were wasting by smoking it. So our curiosities were peaked to the high of the needle.

My parents were on the other coast. My sister was clueless, and that was the beginning of a more disastrous story.

Going to rehab is not a miraculous cure or end-all to the bad behaviors and underlying causes of an addict’s problem. They are not going to come back completely reprogrammed. Especially if they had less than ideal experiences and didn’t receive help. Which unfortunately isn’t uncommon in today’s rehabilitation system.

Change Enabling Behaviors

Enabling means different things to different people but it spells disaster for all. The worst thing that you can do is to continue to support them in their old addictive ways. Drug addicts are manipulators and the drug addict you love is no different. Regardless of their guilt tactics or repetitive pleas, you need to stand firm with your bottom line.

Boundaries and Bottom Line

What is your bottom line? Write it down. What manipulative tactics were you falling victim to prior to their recovery? Don’t forget them. Was there an intervention? Were letters read with expectations and boundaries? Those boundaries need to be reiterated and enforced.

If you didn’t establish your relationship boundaries and bottom line before rehab, it’s important to do so before you help an addict recover at home.

Financial Mistakes

Don’t finance their homes and cars allowing them to use their cash for drinking and drugging! Do not authorize them on your bank account, or cosign a line of credit. And above all, do not give them cash! They gave a million reasons why they needed it before and they will give you a million more.

Don’t make me repeat the 40-60% relapse statistics, with closer to 72-88% relapse rates for opiate addiction.

There is not a damn thing that they should be able to do to convince you that they’re not part of that statistic. It should take months, even years, for them to reestablish that trust. They are liars in recovery too. Don’t forget that.

Financial Support

This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t help an addict recover with means that help them re-establish themselves within society. If you can pay for a dance or art class, college, or another extracurricular activity for them to encourage growth by engaging in their passions, then please do it.

But don’t hand them the cash or write them a check. Swipe your card for the purchase. If you can help them with a modest vehicle or a place to call home without enabling them to finance drugs, by all means, help them out of their struggle. Life is hard. Educate yourself and understand what is helpful and what hurts.

Put Your Own Drugs and Alcohol Away to Help an Addict Recover

Don’t downplay the severity of their disease. It’s best to avoid drinking and drugging of any kind around your loved one. That means even something as simple as taking a pill. Especially if it’s a prescription medicine and that’s their DOC.

It may be prescribed, and you don’t have a problem abusing them. But don’t pull the bottle out and pop the damn thing in front of them. It’s insensitive and not smart.

Legal Substances

Don’t put pressure on them to justify your own alcohol use. They are in their beginning stages of recovery, and it’s unfair to ask them if it’s alright to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana around them. They’ve only recently re-entered the real world.

If you can’t have them over without having a drink or blowing a blunt, you might consider taking a closer look at yourself. Why would you jeopardize their sobriety in any way?

My parents are wine drinkers and wasted no time–consuming bottles in my presence. However, they asked me if it was alright and elaborated they wouldn’t drink if it bothered me. Honestly, after spending forty-thousand dollars on my second chance at recovery, I was shocked by their insensitivity.

Hide Your Drugs

Help an addict recover by putting your fucking drugs away. It doesn’t matter if the drug you use is their DOC or not. Drugs are drugs, mmm kay? They will do them. They will do them all until they’re back using the one that put them into rehab in the first place.

When I came home, I opened the cupboard to get a coffee mug in the morning. My sister had left a bottle of forty Percocet in the cupboard! This was my second day home from my stay at Narconon’s Scientology scam. At that point, I was clean for seven months. Percoset is what teased and turned on my heroin addiction.

It was unsettling and angered me, to say the least. I couldn’t believe no one appeared to take any time to make sure that my environment was set up for my success!

It still rattles me to think about what may have happened had I not been stronger that day. Immediately, I screamed for my sister to come to collect them, and she complied. However, she tossed them into her dresser drawer with zero regard to the reality that I was watching. The memory of them being in there tempted me a few times over the years.

Educate Yourself About Relapse to Help an Addict Recover

One more time for the people in back, relapse statistics are at 40-60%. With closer to a 72-88% relapse rate for opiate addiction. Don’t be naive about what relapse looks and sounds like.

Warning Signs of a Relapse

  • Your loved one starts associating with people from when they were using.
  • They begin reliving their war stories but refer to them affectionately as the good old days.
  • They start losing interest in their hobbies, passions, activities, and friends.
  • You catch them telling lies.
  • They’ve become depressed and/or isolated.
  • Beginning to badmouth the recovery process and their programs.
  • Their attitude and behaviors begin changing and not for the best.
  • They stop attending meetings.

Common Triggers of Relapse

  • Depression
  • Interacting with People Using Drugs and Alcohol
  • Isolation
  • Exhaustion
  • Old Scenery and Hangouts
  • Memories
  • Stress
  • Unemployment
  • Physical Pain

Final Thoughts for How to Help an Addict Recover

Despite the many mistakes made during my homecoming, I’m seven years heroin-free as of 09-27-13. I’ve never received any therapy or attended any meetings, and I started smoking weed after two years into my sobriety.

I’ve since quit. I realize that marijuana isn’t heroin. However, in the disease of addiction, it’s a new vice for the same problems. So I’ve begun working on the NA 12-Steps and have focused my energy on sobriety.

Furthermore, please do your research and be careful where you send your loved ones for help. I’ve gone to rehab twice and never received drug treatment or counseling (as promised) by both facilities.

My first experience being a 30-day state-funded program that was equivalent to county jail. My second treatment experience being Narconon — a Scientology rehab scam that recruits new members into their cult under false claims of drug rehab.

So please, read reviews (go back several pages on Google) and interview multiple places to narrow your search. Visit the locations before committing when the opportunity permits.

Above all pray about it. Keep praying every day while they’re at treatment. As well as, after they return home. I believe that by the grace of God I am alive and heroin-free. Despite my rehab experiences and thoughtless welcome home. I am free.

I’m incredibly blessed by a network of people who genuinely love and pray for me (including my parents). And I’m eternally grateful. God bless you and the addicts you love in recovery. Would you bless me by sharing my story? Thanks! You wouldn’t believe how happy that makes me.


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Elizabeth Ervin

Elizabeth Ervin is studying to become a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor. She overcame heroin addiction and is passionate about helping others with recovery. She writes regularly about addiction, recovery, and mental health at

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  1. As a recovering addict, these are excellent ways to help an addict recover. I also have to especially recommend listening skills and patience.

  2. I love how comprehensive this guide is. It’s so hard to know what to do to help someone who’s in recovery. There’s just so much. This is a huge help.

  3. This is going to help so many people who are trying to support a loved one going through recovery. It’s so hard to know what to do. It can completely paralyze you.

  4. This is such an important topic to cover, and so many great points. Thank you for sharing how to help an addict recover!

  5. This really is such a comprehensive guide for how to help an addict recover. If you’re not an addict, you don’t know exactly what they’re going through so you can’t help them if you don’t get the right information.

  6. You are the best, Lizzy! That’s all I can say, for the gallant effort you’ve put into putting this entire blog post together! I love you more for it.

    To recovery!

  7. I agree. I think relapse is worst than the initial addiction itself. These guides really help families to facilitate fast recovery after a house member arrives from rehab.

  8. Amazing tips to help an addict recover. It’s so important for families and loved ones to get involved with recovery.

  9. Thank you so much for this! Indeed this is a great read for those who want to recover and help their family/friends recover through addiction who are hesitant to ask for advice.

  10. Lizzy, this is so full of fantastic tips. I would very much like to introduce you to someone who I am sure would love to have you as a guest on their show. Email me 🙂

  11. This guide for helping an addict recover is amazing, anything I can think of is covered. I hope I never have to use it but if I ever find myself needing guidance on how to help someone I know where to look. Just amazing.

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