Get help today 888-509-8965 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Drug or Alcohol Withdrawal: How to Stand By Them Through It All

Your loved one is taking the first step to recovery: Detox. It won’t be an easy process. Are you prepared to help them? It might be hard to watch them suffer through it, but it’s even harder to watch them suffer through substance abuse. You want to help them any way you can, but are unsure how to offer support. Here’s how.

10 Steps to a New Beginning

As they detox, they will experience withdrawal. They will need your help to combat the many symptoms and side effects of this process. You can offer this aid through your own W.I.T.H.D.R.A.W.A.L. These ten tips will help you provide the support your loved one desperately needs during this time.

  • (W)ise Medical Advice
    Always consult a doctor or detox facility before attempting to detox at home. It may not be safe to do this without medical supervision. Find out if this is a safe option for your loved one and what you can do to prepare.
  • (I)ntricate Process
    Realize this is only the first step. Detox is not the cure. Your loved one will need additional support after they detox. They will have to learn new behaviors and coping mechanisms and deal with underlying issues that drove them to substance abuse.
  • (T)ime Off Work
    Be prepared to devote focused time to your loved one. Take personal time off work. Find a sitter for the kids. The first few days can be especially intense as they experience painful withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. Spend as much time with them as you can to help them through this.
  • (H)elp for You
    As you focus all your time and energy on your loved one, you may need support for yourself. Tasks you would normally handle may pile up. You may need a break from the intensity of their initial withdrawal symptoms. Don’t hesitate to ask for reinforcements.
  • (D)on’t Take it Personally
    You might be the only one present during this difficult process. This means you may bear the brunt of their discomfort and frustrations. Try to remember they’re suffering, and don’t take to heart things that are said in the heat of the moment.
  • (R)emove Bad Influences
    Protect your loved one while they are detoxing. Keep toxic people away. This includes poor influences as well as those who cause stress or conflict. Detox isn’t a good time to expose them to these individuals.
  • (A)lleviate Physical Symptoms
    Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on your loved one’s extent and length of abuse, what they were using and their general physical health. Physical symptoms often include vomiting, diarrhea, hot and cold sweats and muscle aches. They may also have difficulty sleeping and experience exhaustion. You can help alleviate these symptoms by providing them a good place to rest, massaging painful aches, and giving them over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-diarrhea medications. Of course, if symptoms become severe, contact medical professionals.
  • (W)atch Their Diet
    Withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Ensure your loved one gets plenty of fluids. Provide light, easy-to-digest foods such as soup, rice, vegetables and fruits.
  • (A)musement
    In addition to withdrawal symptoms, your loved one will probably experience strong cravings. Help them through this by distracting them with activities. Watch a movie together. Play cards. Go for a walk. Simply sitting and listening to them vent may be all they need.
  • (L)ong-Suffering
    Supporting your loved one through this takes patience. The physical and mental challenges for both of you require perseverance. Typically, detox lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Be patient with your loved one as you see them through this process. It will be worth it when you are walking with them in sobriety.

Paying for Rehab Treatment

Additional Resources on Drug and Alcohol Detox

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.