How to Be in Recovery When You Live With People Who Are Not

Living with people can be difficult; adding substances into the mix can make the living situation even more difficult. It can be hard to navigate the situation. You want to be able to confront who you are living with without making it seem like an attack. 

Luckily, there are many things you can do to help alleviate some of the stress. Some tools you can use include setting boundaries, individual and group therapy, and improving communication and relationships. This applies to roommates, romantic partners, or family members.

Setting Boundaries

This may be one of the most critical things to do when living with someone still using. Setting boundaries allows you to be comfortable with your living environment. It also allows a certain sense of peace of mind between you and who you are living with. 

For example, if you are managing a substance use disorder, try to set a boundary that makes you feel comfortable and safe. Maybe that means not keeping alcohol in the house, or maybe that means not keeping certain types of alcohol that might trigger you. That does not mean that your loved one cannot drink. Instead, it means that you would be more comfortable if there were no triggers in the home. 

The thing to keep in mind is that your sobriety is the most important thing. Above everything else, you have to keep that in mind because without your sobriety, you risk losing everything. 

Support Groups 

Support groups are a good way to expose who you live with to what your sober life is like. Such groups can offer insight into difficult topics or scenarios, and it allows your loved one to ask questions from people who are going through situations similar to their experience. There are a few different types of groups that they can choose from.


Al-Anon is a group for people whose loved one is in active addiction or recovery. It is a great place for your loving partner to share their thoughts and feelings with people in similar situations. The group can provide insight and context to some of the issues they may be having. It also gives them a place to talk about and air out some of the problems they may be having. 

Open Meetings

An open meeting is similar to Al-Anon. An open meeting is also similar to the type of meeting you would typically attend. The difference is that it is open to anyone, including family, friends, and roommates. This is different from Al-Anon because it can give your loved one the perspective of someone managing addiction. This kind of education could help explain where you might be coming from with certain issues. It also allows your loved one to ask questions, if the format allows, that they might have about recovery.

Healthy Communication Tips

Sometimes it can be difficult to have these conversations with the people you live with. Here are some tips to help with having healthy communication skills:

  • Speak from your perspective
  • Do not tell them what to do
  • Manage expectations

Speaking from your perspective allows the person you are living with not to feel attacked. When doing this, try to use the phrase "I feel…" when saying something. For example, you might say, "I feel that keeping alcohol in the house would damage my sobriety." This takes the pressure off the person from thinking they did something wrong and allows them to be empathetic instead of defensive.

Avoid Becoming Demanding 

Being demanding about things can make your loved one combative. It can trigger feelings that can make them feel as though they are not doing enough or that what they are doing is not enough. That is why making demands should be avoided at all costs; it will only escalate an already tense situation.

Manage Expectations

Managing expectations is probably the hardest one of these tips to follow. You want to believe that when you get out of treatment and enter early recovery, everyone is willing to do whatever they can to help. Unfortunately, sometimes this just is not the case. Everyone has their own set of challenges in life, and at that point, they may not be able to offer all the help you think you need. This is something that you need to accept.

So when setting boundaries with friends, family, and peers, keep in mind that the person may say "no." That is okay; it does not mean they are against your sobriety. It means that they have their limitations too. It is essential to try and give equal respect and try to find common ground for you to meet.

Living with people who are not in recovery can be challenging at times. It can be especially difficult if that person is in active addiction or socializes with substances. You want to do all you can to put your recovery first, but it can be tricky to navigate; NorthStar Transitions can help. At NorthStar Transitions, our approach to care incorporates conventional and holistic practices to ensure your needs are met. Remember, addiction affects the whole family, which is why we also provide support for families to help them work together to manage addiction. With us, you and your loved one will learn more about substance use and mental health-related issues, and doing so could prepare and prevent your loved one from overstepping your boundaries. If you or a loved one are currently, You can take the first steps by calling us at (303) 558-6400.

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