Being close to a recovering alcoholic or drug addict can sometimes be like walking on egg shells. In truth, many recovering alcoholic/addicts state that their loved one’s actions can be a cause of many triggers which can then lead to relapse. It’s important to know what your loved one’s triggers are, and to recognize if you may be exhibiting them.

Here are 5 common triggers often associated with loved ones and what you can do instead for the health of yourself and your loved one in recovery:

  1. Overbearing vs. Supportive: Many alcoholics/addicts state that their loved ones being “too concerned” or too overprotective of them in early sobriety is a very big trigger. It’s important to remember that being over bearing can cause anyone to feel anxious. Find a healthy balance with healthy boundaries to avoid making your loved one feel “smothered.” Being too involved can also lead to resentment, which is listed as one of the top reasons for relapse.
  2. How does your drinking or drug use affect your loved one? Whether or not you drink/use excessively, your loved one watching you drink/use can be a trigger, especially if you used to drink or use together. A good rule of thumb is be honest and communicate.  Find out how they feel about your use. Choosing wisely when and how you drink/use can be the difference between a healthy recovery and a strained relationship.
  3. Not understanding the disease of addiction. Many people in recovery state that their loved ones “don’t understand what I’m going through.” You can educate yourself so you can KNOW what your loved one is going through. A lack of education from loved ones can be a major trigger for anyone in early recovery due to frequent misunderstandings. If your recovering loved one is in treatment, attend all family meetings and groups.  Also, go to Al-anon meetings to find out more about addiction and the recovery process. Al-anon is a great outlet so that you can be around people that are going through a similar situation. As an added bonus, you will very likely find support and comfort through talking to other people and forming your own recovery.
  4. Notice and recognize that your loved one is changing (and so are you). Rebuilding trust with your recovering loved one is a key component to helping you both recover. But rebuilding trust can take time and may not seem easy.  See these articles for suggestions on how to successfully rebuild trust: Restoring Trust Damaged by Addiction Part 1; Restoring Trust Damaged by Addiction Part 2; Restoring Trust Damaged by Addiction Part 3. Most of the actions to rebuild trust is on the recovering loved one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin to make small changes that show your loved one you see and appreciate their effort and accomplishments.  Understand that celebrating their sobriety milestones is the best form of encouragement you can provide.  Recognize the small and large steps they take. Having a supportive environment will encourage sobriety and promote the necessary steps it takes to be in recovery.
  5. Resisting change vs. Embracing change.  Recovery is full of changes. Your loved one will change and so will you during this process and so will your relationship.  Change can be scary and can make us anxious.  So talk with your loved one about the changes you are experiences and how it makes you feel, and ask them to do the same.  Resisting changes can create unnecessary obstacles for anyone in recovery.  Instead, take time to talk and listen to one another.  Only the fears we don’t talk about have power.  Embrace the new changes you are both making.  Talk about the speed of the changes. Rarely will you both be changing at the same rate, so be open about how changes are affecting each of you.

Avoiding these 5 common triggers can help you and your loved one during recovery.

New Hope Recovery Center offers alcohol and drug addiction treatment in Chicago, IL.  We have a family and loved one program that educates and involves family members and loved ones in the treatment process.  If you have a loved on with a drug or alcohol addiction, contact us at 773-883-3916 or email us at

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center