How to Stay Sober When Fighting with a Loved One

How to Stay Sober When Fighting with a Loved One

By In Addiction Recovery, Relapse Prevention, Relationships and Addiction
Posted August 22, 2017

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that one of the most common triggers for relapse is stress. Naturally, the stress that results from conflict with a loved one can be a major trigger for recovering addicts.

There’s no way to avoid conflict entirely; it’s a natural part of life. Sometimes, you and the people you love the most will inevitably have opposing views.

But while you can’t completely avoid conflict, you can manage it in a healthy way and avoid relapse. Here are some tips to help you stay sober through the stress of fighting with a loved one.

Try to Resolve the Conflict

The first step is to try your best to resolve the conflict, hopefully steering clear of this potential trigger.

Start by making sure that the conflict isn’t simply a case of miscommunication. Summarize what you heard the other person say, then repeat it back. For example, “Are you saying that you feel…?” Often, questions like this allow you to resolve the conflict by getting on the same page. Communicating in this way also makes it clear that you’re genuinely trying to understand your loved one’s concerns.

Be sure to take responsibility for your role in the conflict, and try to navigate the problem in person instead of through social media and text messages.

You can also work on adjusting your attitude about conflict. Instead of viewing it as painful or focusing on whether or not you “win” the conflict, think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes changing your attitude can change the outcome as well.

Don’t Isolate Yourself

If you’re unable to resolve the conflict, you may feel upset about the fight with your loved one and want to withdraw from others. But it’s important that you don’t isolate yourself.

In addition to stress, loneliness is another major trigger for recovering addicts. To avoid experiencing both of these triggers simultaneously, try to spend time with other positive friends and family members.

Confide in someone you trust about what you’re going through, including any cravings you may be experiencing. Simply talking about your feelings can make you feel much better, and your friend may have some helpful advice or words of encouragement.

Be sure that as you turn to other friends and loved ones, you avoid those who participated in or encouraged your addictive behaviors in the past. Surround yourself with only positive and supportive people, especially when you’re already feeling vulnerable.

friends talking to each other

 Occupy Your Time with Healthy Activities

Staying busy with healthy activities is another good way to maintain your sobriety, even through difficult times. You can participate in these activities solo, but it’s even better if you can bring a companion along.

Go for a walk, watch a favorite movie, spend a day at the pool, engage in something creative, head to the gym, or go out for lunch or coffee. Dance, sing, do yoga, or do anything else that helps you feel relaxed and happy.

Whatever you do during this time, you should be participating in positive activities with positive people.

Keep Working Your Program

It can be difficult to continue working your program when you’re upset. But attending meetings, calling your sponsor, and keeping up with any other aspect of your recovery is more crucial now than ever.

a man on his phone

If possible, it’s even better to increase meeting attendance when you’re worried about relapse. Remember that many other recovering addicts at your meetings may have their own stories about staying sober while fighting with a loved one. They can offer some of the best support and advice you’ll find.

Be open and honest at meetings, with your sponsor, with an addiction counselor, etc. Don’t be afraid to seek as much help as needed.


When you find yourself in conflict with a loved one, try your best to manage and resolve the disagreement in a healthy fashion.

If, despite your best efforts, the conflict isn’t resolved, occupy your time engaging in positive activities with positive people. Continue working your program and leaning on others for support.

Fending off feelings of stress and anxiety with positive people and activities can help you maintain your sobriety through this conflict.


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