5 Best Gifts for People in Recovery From Addiction

Adult son giving father a gift while sitting on sofa at home
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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

Many people who are coping with substance use disorder actively seek out sensory experiences and social contact through their drug or alcohol use.

Sharing an experience can be a meaningful way of spending time with someone who has 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 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.


Gift Certificates and Gift Cards

Although cash may be used to finance an addition, you can give money in different forms. Good examples of money-related gifts include gift certificates or gift cards, particularly for items you know they want or 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

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

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.

But 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

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 they might feel judged and as though you are 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.

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.