How to support a loved one in recovery for substance use disorder

Approximately 21 million adults in the United States consider themselves to be recovering or in recovery for substance use disorder (SUD).1 This is a serious but treatable mental health disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior. People with SUD are not able to control their use of certain legal or illegal substances.2

Taking the step to stop using drugs or alcohol can be extremely difficult. For many, a strong support system is important for success.

Whether the person in recovery is a partner, friend, parent, child or colleague, one of the first steps in your support is understanding what “recovery” means to them. Then there are some helpful ways to best support them on their journey.

What does it mean when a person is “in recovery”?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recovery — either from a substance use or mental health disorder — is the process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential.3

The SAMHSA defines the 4 key areas that support a life in recovery:3

  • Health: overcoming or managing the disease(s) or symptoms
  • Home: finding stability in a living situation
  • Purpose: committing to meaningful activities, such as pursuing school, a job, volunteering
  • Community: building relationships that provide support, friendship, love and hope

No matter what point a person is in their journey, if they are telling you that they’re in recovery, it’s a way of asking for your support, shares James C. Sherer, M.D., an addiction psychiatrist and the director of addiction medicine consult service at Hackensack Meridian Health.

Then comes the big question: How can you provide it?

5 ways to help someone in recovery for substance use disorder

Substance Use Helpline1-855-780-5955

If you feel that you or a loved one are experiencing signs of addiction, call the confidential helpline to get support, guidance on treatment options, help finding a network provider and answers to your questions.

Already a member?

Sign in or register on your plan website to see personalized benefit details and resources to help you manage your plan and health.