5 Best Gifts for Recovering Alcoholics and Addicts

Whether it's a holiday, a special occasion, or a birthday, you may be wondering what to buy for that loved one in your life who has been or is in recovery for a substance use disorder. Asking what they want can be problematic because the gifts they ask for may be related to their substance use, or even make their addiction worse.

And if they ask outright for something directly related to their substance use disorder, such as money, drugs, or drug paraphernalia, it could lead to conflict at a time when you want to strengthen, not weaken, your relationship.

Here are five great ideas for gifts for the person in your life with a substance use disorder that won't enable their substance use or hurt their recovery.


A Shared Experience

Back of crowd facing a concert stage

Jena Ardell / Moment / Getty Images 

Many people who have a substance use disorder actively seek out sensory experiences and social contact through their drug use.

Sharing an experience can be a meaningful way of spending time with someone with a substance use disorder.

A different kind of experience might just open them up to seeing that life has a lot to offer. It could be something outlandish, such as a flight in a hot air balloon—the ultimate high—or something as simple as a meal in a restaurant that provides an experimental sensory experience, such as a raw food cafe or one that features live music. Stay away from places that serve alcohol.


Financial Gifts

Woman holding a gift card and using a laptop

Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

Although cash may be used for drugs for those who are not in recovery, you can give money in different forms so it may not be worth the hassle of your loved one trying to convert it to cash in order to buy drugs.

Good examples are gift certificates or gift cards, particularly for items you know they need.

You can also pay for something that can't be cashed in but that might enhance their quality of life, such as health insurance, a magazine subscription, or a continuing education program.


Gadgets or Knickknacks

Man playing guitar for his dob
Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

One of the big attractions of drug use is having something to do with your hands. There is often a procedure, even a ritual, associated with drug use that can leave idle hands uncomfortable.

Little gadgets can include:

  • Small, handheld fidget spinner
  • Stress ball
  • Musical instrument
  • Small puzzle, such as a Rubik's cube

This is a great option if you don't have or want to spend a lot of cash, but still want to give an enjoyable gift.


Books and Movies

Eminem speaking into microphone

Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

People with substance use disorders are often fascinated by the lives of others in the same situation, especially if the person is using the same drug. Some books and movies make inappropriate gifts by reinforcing the excitement of drug use.

There are books and movies that do a great job of illustrating the recovery process, showing people can come out on the other side.

A few examples include:

  • Boy George's autobiography, which talks about how he took ecstasy and LSD and later heroin but became abstinent as he matured.
  • It's All Gone Pete Tong, which is funny and deep and gets across the sinister side of cocaine use disorder without being preachy and without cocaine being the focal point of the movie.
  • Eminem's "Recovery" album

Self-Help Resources

Man reading a book

 Tara Moore / Getty Images

If your friend or loved one is interested in self-help approaches to recovery, a carefully chosen resource might spur them on to try to get into recovery or work on improving their lifestyle more generally. Particularly helpful are approaches to achieving the goals of substance use disorder without drugs.

A few great self-help books include:

  • The Natural Mind by Dr. Andrew Weil
  • Free Rides: How to Get High Without Drugs by Douglas Rushkoff and Patrick Wells
  • Controlling Your Drinking by William Miller and Ricardo Munoz

Be sure that the book actually fits your loved one's goals or he or she might feel judged and like you were pushing your own agenda rather than giving a genuine gift.

A Word From Verywell

Relationships with people with substance use disorders, whether or not they're in recovery, can be challenging. However, the support of loved ones can be crucial to getting back on their feet. Keep showing that you care.

Was this page helpful?