If you are close with a former drug addict, you must already know how hard it was for them to get clean. They’ve worked so hard to get here, and it may seem like a relapse isn’t possible, but it’s important to know that in order to help a drug addict stay clean there are certain things you can do. 

What can you do to prevent a former drug addict from having a relapse? How can you help a former drug addict stay clean? 

First, it’s important to recognize that relapses for former drug addicts are not so uncommon. Approximately 80% of those who achieve a drug free lifestyle after being addicted to drugs relapse at least once. Many have drug relapses several times before becoming and staying completely sober. It takes an extreme amount of self discipline, will power, and commitment for someone who has suffered with substance abuse to stay sober.

Staying sober isn’t always as straightforward as simply not using drugs and going to support meetings.  If only it were that easy.  That’s not to say that formula isn’t good, but usually there’s a lot more to staying sober than just that. 

It takes concentrated effort and strategy to recognize a former drug addict’s triggers so you can help them manage their stress and have an easier time preventing a relapse. The following is a list of recommended actions you can take to help a drug addict stay clean:

1. Recognize Drug Addiction Triggers


A variable in the equation of protecting a former drug addict from relapsing is recognizing what triggers them to crave drugs.  This can be interactions with certain people, locations, things, as well as circumstances that evoke certain internal triggers including thoughts and feelings connected with their former drug abuse. When you determine what the biggest threats are, you’ll have a better understanding of how to help a drug addict stay clean by avoiding those triggers.

Here are some frequent triggers correlated to drug addiction relapses:

  • Anxiety, stress or signs of depression
  • Psychological, emotional or physical anguish
  • Locations and situations associated with an addicts history
  • Being around others who are using drugs and alcohol
  • Problems with friendships, marriage or relationships
  • Financial issues or stress at work

2. Identify The Warning Signals Associated With Drug Use

Unfortunately, drug relapse can happen when least expected, and typically due to the fact that warning signals are ignored or not recognized altogether. There are 3 main signals associated with relapse, all of which tend to happen long before a former addict picks up a drink or uses drugs again:

  • Emotional Relapse

  • Psychological relapse

  • Physical relapse

Indications for emotional, psychological and physical relapse may include the following:

  • Patterns in thought associated with drug addiction
  • Self destructive behavior
  • Wanting to associate with individuals that use drugs or alcohol
  • Irrational or irresponsible thoughts and behaviors
  • Mentally associated drugs and alcohol as the proper escape from distress

3. Understand That Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome For Drug Addicts Can Last Up To 2 Years

Although the risk of relapse will depend on each individual circumstance and type of drug addiction, post-acute withdrawal disorder (PAWS) can last from 6 months to a couple of years after a drug addict stops abusing drugs. Symptoms can range from having trouble sleeping, being easily irritable, recurring anxiousness and even depression. 

These symptoms cannot be ignored and should be taken seriously in order to help a drug addict stay sober. By acknowledging the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome, you’ll know if it’s time to find additional support.

If you notice that a former drug addict’s symptoms are severe or not going away, a doctor can assist in determining the proper treatment option specific to prevent relapse.

4. Help Drug Addicts Stay Away From Old Bad Habits and Routines

Preventing relapse requires serious change, and you can help make that happen. Who were the people your friend or loved one was hanging out with when they were addicted to drugs?  Where was he/she handing out when he/she was addicted to drugs? It’s impossible for a former drug addict to stay sober if they’re put in familiar situations that trigger drug abuse.  

Many of the changes that need to be made are pretty straightforward. Don’t let a sober person hang around the people that caused his/her drug addiction in the first place.  Thinking that letting a sober person associate with old bad habits and routines is simply a recipe for relapse. 

5. Promote Relationships That Are Healthy For Their Sobriety

Now that your friend or loved one is sober, you don’t want to just help them avoid previous toxic relationships and situations, but you’ll also want to initiate new, positive relationships that can bring the best out of him/her. It doesn’t just have to be certain friends that drink alcohol or do drugs that can cause relapse, so be weary of the people in this person’s life that don’t necessarily bring the best out of him/her. This may have even been family members or friends that have been enabling the drug addict without even realizing it.  

You’ll want to speak openly with the former drug addict about who those people might be, so that you can help them avoid putting themselves in situations where relapse is possible or even likely. This may be a relative, good friend, or association that may have been enabling the drug addiction without even realizing it

Research studies have revealed that staying away from hazardous relationships will increase the likelihood of helping a drug addict stay clean. In order to prevent relapse, it is essential to help your friend or loved one develop healthy and positive connections.

If you feel like it’s hard to help your friend or loved one associate with better people, you may want to suggest becoming part of a support group. Investing one’s time with encouraging positive people will undoubtedly affect a former drug addict in a way that is likely to prevent relapse, all the while establishing healthy and fruitful relationships that will bring the best out of him/her. 

6. Help Establish Structure To Avoid Drug Relapse

Living a disorderly or messy lifestyle is not helpful when it comes to helping a drug addict stay clean. Try to help a former drug addict create organized schedules and encourage them to stick with it. By doing so you will certainly assist him/her in establishing a positive habit, which will undoubtedly reflect in other aspects of his/her life. 

Helping a drug addict stay clean is doing more than just avoiding the negative aspects of his/her former life. By assisting in the development of positive habits and activities, you’ll be putting your friend or loved one in a position to succeed.

7. Promote A Healthy And Balanced Drug Free Lifestyle

Drug and alcohol abuse typically causes serious negative physical and mental health issues.  Part of recovery and maintaining sobriety requires helping this person prioritize his/her self-love and care. 

Things to can do to promote a healthy lifestyle to help a drug addict stay clean:

  • Encourage them to workout daily
  • Make time for leisure activities that you can both enjoy together (healthy meals, movies, hiking etc.)
  • Eat nutritional foods that promote a healthy diet
  • Make sure they’re getting enough sleep
  • Do things that are relaxing and good for mental health together (i.e. spend time in nature, meditate, yoga, reading etc.)

8. Encourage Them To Prioritize Their Financial Wellbeing

Many individuals recovering from drug addiction commonly have issues with financial stability, responsibility and employment. This is especially true for those who had been suffering with drug addiction for a long period of time.

Unfortunately, having financial issues leads to stress, anxiety and other triggers that can cause drug abuse in a former addict. Encourage your friend or loved one to focus on taking one step at a time to get their financial life in order. Remind them that success does not happen overnight.  It’s a journey and as long as they are moving forward in a positive direction, they will get there.

You may want to reach out to a vocational rehab counselor who can assist in helping your friend or loved one update their resume, look for job opportunities, and also find work that matches their capabilities and expertise.

As soon as he/she does get back to work, it is crucial to develop a budget and act responsibly with their cash.  By doing so, this will prevent stress and help them stay clean.

9. Prevent Frustration and Promote Calmness To Prevent Relapse

Individuals that have abused alcohol or drugs commonly have temperament issues. If unaddressed, this rage can be a major obstacle in helping a drug addict stay clean.

Everyone can get frustrated at times. How that anger is dealt is what will determine a person’s ability to maintain sobriety.

A lot of people who have suffered from drug addiction never learned the proper way to handle their tempers. Talking to a therapist, medical professional, or friend regarding exactly how to manage frustration in a manner that will not cause harm to oneself or others or will be instrumental in maintaining a sober lifestyle.

10. Help Them Acknowledge The Negatives of Their Past While Promoting The Positive Future A Drug Free Life Holds

Many recovered individuals still have a great deal of bad memories and pain that has not completely gone away. They may feel guilty or embarrassed of their past and certain actions they’ve taken.  These are all normal aspects of the post rehab process.

Recovering addicts often have trouble with their own self worth as a result of the guilt of their past weighing on them.  They often feel extremely embarrassed about having been a drug addict.

These feelings are normal and can hold a person back from maintaining sobriety. In order to keep a drug addict clean, you want to help avoid letting those feelings become toxic.

Many former drug addicts will find that they have hurt people like you who are close to them.  This can cause them to have many regrets. To help them stay clean, it’s important that you communicate with them that their past mistakes do not define them, and that it’s their actions moving forward that really matter.

11. Living a Sober and Balanced Lifestyle

It is not uncommon for former drug addicts to replace old compulsive behaviors with new ones. This may include approaching the way they eat, exercise, work, or other things in a way that mirrors addiction.

While it’s important to recognize many of these new activities are positive, we don’t want them to be a stumbling block to lasting sobriety by letting a recently recovered drug addict replace old voids with other addictive behaviors. they end up being a transfer dependency to fill the void left by the initial addiction. The trick to rediscovering a healthy lifestyle is helping by helping your friend loved one continue to approach sober and positive activities with balance.

Overdoing anything is never good, and it can especially be harmful when it comes to helping a drug addict stay clean.

12. Acknowledge Wins Associated with Maintaining Sobriety Along The Way

Drug addicts who have taken part in a 12-step program likely already know the significance celebrating milestones. It’s common for treatment centers to award some sort of material object that symbolizes monthly and annual progress.

Recognizing and commemorating the difficult road to sobriety is so important when it comes to motivating those who are actively working towards a better life.  Making it through drug rehab is an extremely brave and commendable act, but it’s just the beginning.  

If someone you know is struggling with drug addiction or substance abuse, please contact Victory of Life today.  Our trained professionals will provide you with the support and information you need to find the right treatment center near you.

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