Questions to Ask Those in Recovery

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Over four million U.S. adults engaged with treatment for alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder in 2020, according to the latest data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). A further 866,000 obtained treatment for addictions to both alcohol and illicit drugs.

If you have a friend or family member who has already detoxed and completed an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, what comes next?

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Addiction is defined by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) as a chronic and relapsing brain condition. Like most chronic conditions, alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) and substance use disorder (drug addiction) have high relapse rates of up to 60%. The more informed you are about the nature of addiction, the possibility of relapse, and the recovery journey in general, the more effectively you can help your loved one to embrace sober living. 

Helping a Loved One in Recovery: Listen More and Talk Less

Every addiction is unique, and everyone will have a different experience of recovery. 

If you have a loved one who is newly sober and transitioning back into daily living after rehab, it is worth remembering that those in recovery are being bombarded with new information from therapists and addiction specialists. 

Often, those in recovery welcome the opportunity to talk to their nearest and dearest rather than being continuously questioned. By offering your loved one the chance to discuss the elements of their recovery experience they feel comfortable sharing without introducing any pressure.

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The Most Valuable Questions to Ask Those in Recovery

Maybe you’re agonizing about how you should communicate most effectively with your loved one in recovery. 

Fortunately, you can keep things very simple when it comes to questioning your loved one. It’s arguably most important to become aware of what you should avoid asking your friend or family member. Before we guide you in that area, here are three key questions worth posing: 

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. How can I help?
  3. What are the most positive aspects of your recovery?

1) How are you feeling?

Perhaps the most incisive question to ask a friend or family member grappling with addiction is “How are you feeling?” 

Many substance use disorders begin when an individual uses alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs to self-medicate mental health symptoms. By encouraging your loved one to open up about how they are feeling in their ongoing recovery, they can tell you as much or as little as they like without any pressure. 

Remember: you are not playing the role of your loved one’s therapist, but rather allowing your friend or family member to share their thoughts and feelings while you listen more than you talk. 

2) How can I help?

Instead of assuming that you know what your loved in recovery needs, bear in mind that all addictions and circumstances are unique, and all pathways to recovery are slightly different. 

Ask your loved one directly what specific help you can give them. They may require assistance with: 

  • Household chores
  • Childcare
  • Grocery shopping
  • Prescriptions and medications
  • Transportation

By offering laser-focused help and then following through with meaningful assistance, you can take positive steps to smoothen any rough edges from your loved one’s new sober life. 

Additionally, by asking your loved one what they need, you will empower them, and they will feel more in control of their recovery journey. 

3) What are the most positive aspects of your recovery?

Ask your loved one open-ended questions like “What are the most positive aspects of sober living?” 

Many people in the early phase of recovery find sober living far more rewarding than they first imagined. With the discomfort of detox now dissipated, body and mind are becoming stronger. Let your loved one tell you about the many ways in which their life is improving now they are unencumbered by addiction. This is a far more effective strategy than posing a series of questions that leave your loved one feeling like they are being interrogated.

What To Avoid Asking Those in Recovery

Allowing your loved in recovery the freedom to share as much or as little of their recovery journey as they feeling comfortable doing is the most effective way to help them transition from rehab into sober living. Give them the space to adjust to life substance-free and let them know you are available whenever they need help. 

Beyond this, bear the following pointers in mind and try to avoid these things when communicating with your loved one in recovery: 

  1. Try not to overstep your boundaries
  2. Refrain from telling your loved one about your experiences with drugs or alcohol
  3. Think closely about how you phrase recovery-related questions and avoid implying that sobriety must be boring
  4. Stop endlessly probing the past
  5. Be mindful of making assumptions: all recovery journeys are unique

1) Try not to overstep your boundaries

As outlined above, you should not make your loved one in recovery feel like they are being questioned and micro-managed. If you attempt to help by taking too direct an approach, your loved one may end up pulling away from you instead of opening up. 

Understand that a key component of recovery from addiction is learning to become responsible and accountable for your own actions. By letting your loved one know that you are ready to support them on their terms, you can respect their boundaries while still helping them to transition from active addiction into ongoing sobriety. 

2) Refrain from telling your loved one about your experiences with drugs or alcohol

Every person in recovery will have personal triggers for substance abuse. Try to avoid discussing your use of alcohol or substances, whether past or present, as this is liable to trigger most of those in recovery. The safest approach is to leave your loved in recovery to raise the topic of alcohol or drug use. 

3) Think closely about how you phrase recovery-related questions and avoid implying that sobriety must be boring

Try never to make your loved one feel that life in recovery is boring. How you phrase your questions can help you to avoid implying that sober life must be frustrating or unrewarding. Asking a question like, “What do you do with all your free time now? Are you bored?” is much less effective than “Have you taken up any new hobbies recently?” 

Be considerate, be empathetic, and frame your loved one’s recovery in a positive light at all times. 

4) Stop endlessly probing the past

Try asking recovery-related questions that begin with, “Now you are sober, I wanted to talk about…” 

By taking this approach, you will acknowledge that your loved one is not now in the same state of mind and that they may be more amenable to discussing a topic that’s important to you. 

You should at all costs avoid dredging up the past. Those in recovery are acutely aware of their past mistakes so help them embrace the present and future substance-free rather than becoming caught up in the past. 

5) Be mindful of making assumptions: all recovery journeys are unique

Never make assumptions about your loved one and their recovery journey. For some people, recovery involves intensive inpatient treatment followed by ongoing engagement with peer-support groups and counseling. Others take a white-knuckle recovery route with little or no professional help. There are many other avenues to recovery between those two extremes, meaning no two recovery experiences are alike. 

Invite your loved in recovery to elaborate on what works for them rather than making assumptions.

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Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment for Addiction at California Detox

Maybe your loved one has relapsed after rehab, or perhaps you have a family member who has yet to engage with the treatment they need. Here at California Detox, we offer the following treatment programs for all addictions, mental health disorders, and co-occurring disorders:

  • Supervised medical detox
  • OPs (traditional outpatient programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab) 
  • Virtual therapy (online rehab)

Those at risk of severe withdrawal would benefit from our medical detox program. FDA-approved medications can streamline the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Clinical and emotional care is available around the clock, ensuring your loved one is fully supported throughout a week or so of detoxification. 

The treatment team will personalize a treatment plan for your loved one that draws from a combination of these evidence-based interventions and holistic therapies: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Counseling (group and individual sessions)
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapies)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic rehab

Crucially, the California Detox team will equip your loved one with coping skills, aftercare, and relapse management strategies to maximize the chance of sustained recovery without relapse. For immediate assistance, call admissions right now at 949.567.8790.


Being newly sober will be an eye-opening experience. While the transition can be difficult, living a life free of drugs and alcohol is worth is and can help you learn more about yourself personally and dive into other interests that you now have time for.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, don’t hesitate any longer. Reach out to our team today and even if we can’t help you directly, we will get you in touch with a treatment program that can.


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