For those with a history of drug addiction and substance abuse, half measures are rarely effective. 

From attempts at do-it-yourself detox to repeatedly trying to reduce their alcohol consumption, these efforts are doomed to failure before they even begin.

If someone you care about has been struggling to overcome a drug or alcohol dependency, you can play a vital role in the success of their recovery, and in their odds of a lifetime of sobriety. But in order to do that, you need to encourage and enforce the idea of total abstinence, something that can be a struggle in itself.

There are many reasons why total abstinence is a key underpinning of success in drug and alcohol recovery. 

Some of these reasons are physical, worries that a single bout of drinking or relatively minor incidence of drug use could trigger a dangerous dependency in a vulnerable individual.

Others are psychological and emotional, rooted in concerns that even occasional drug or alcohol use will create a downward spiral of psychological dependency, forcing the once recovered addict back into rehab and putting their health at risk. 

No matter what the root causes, experts in the fields of addiction science and drug recovery point out that abstinence is the best strategy, and here are some smart ways friends and family members can reinforce those ideas.

  • Get to know the philosophy of the support groups and 12-step programs your loved one is attending. Understanding how these programs work, and why total abstinence is such a core belief, will be critical to the support you can provide.
  • Model the behavior you want to encourage. If you are drinking or doing drugs, it will be much harder for your loved one to stay sober. If you truly want to help the person you care about, you should be willing to make some sacrifices and model the behaviors you want to see.
  • Stress the importance of total abstinence in drug recovery. Relapse is an ever-present danger for those in recovery, so talk about the ways in which abstinence can reduce the risk of a future relapse.
  • Talk about fun things to see and do in your own back yard. Coming back to life after rehab may mean getting reacquainted with the town where your loved one lives. Make a list of local attractions you and your loved one can explore together.
  • Help your loved one find sober activities. It is not always easy to find places where others are not indulging in drugs or alcohol, so look for those opportunities and embrace them when you find them.
  • Offer sober alternatives for parties and celebrations. Letting others know that alcohol will not be on the menu can help your recovering family member feel more comfortable in social situations.

For those with a history of drug and alcohol addiction, getting sober is often the easiest part of the recovery journey.

Quality rehab and the presence of a caring and professional staff can rid the body of the toxins it has been absorbing, giving the individual addict or alcoholic a fresh start on the rest of their lives.

Even so, that fresh start is not a guarantee of long term success, and it is up to not only the recovering addict but their loved ones to reinforce lessons learned and provide ongoing support. 

If you are serious about helping your loved one stay sober for a lifetime, you need to provide ongoing support and guidance, including advice that encourages their continued abstinence and sobriety.