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 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.


Share an Experience

A couple in a hot air balloon
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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 That Can't Be Used for Drugs

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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 Unrelated to Drugs

Rubik's Cube
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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 such as a small, handheld fidget spinner, stress ball, or musical instrument fulfill a similar need. A small puzzle such as a Rubik's cube can also work.

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.


Media Showing the Realities of Recovery

Eminem speaking into microphone
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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.

One example is Boy George's autobiography—he took ecstasy and LSD and later heroin, but became abstinent as he matured. Another is the movie "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 is another good choice.


Realistic Self-Help Resources

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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. ​

"The Natural Mind" by Dr. Andrew Weil and "Free Rides: How to Get High Without Drugs" by Douglas Rushkoff and Patrick Wells are good examples. "Controlling Your Drinking" by William Miller and Ricardo Munoz is a great self-help book for cutting down on alcohol.

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.

Relationships with people 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.

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