Words have the power to heal, but they also have the ability to hurt. When a person is in recovery, people around them don’t always know the right things to say. You may flub every once in a while because you’re uncomfortable, but if you decide that you want to help a loved one in recovery, it’s important to know what language to use and what to avoid. Words, after all, have power.
Here are four things you should never say to somebody in recovery:
- “I’m sorry you can’t drink/smoke weed, etc. anymore.” There is nothing to feel sorry about. There are plenty of people out there that don’t drink or abuse drugs for many reasons. They’re not necessarily unhappy. Not everyone needs alcohol or other substances to have fun. If you think that’s the case, you may want to think about your drinking or drug use. Drugs and alcohol can become a problem in anyone’s life, especially if they are genetically susceptible to this.
- “Are you sure you’re addicted?” People who use alcohol and other drugs are the only ones who know about their drug use and behavior in its entirety. Addiction can happen to anyone from any walk of life. If a person tells you they are addicted to something, believe them. People who abuse substances are usually good at hiding it but always experience negative consequences.
- “Can’t you have just one drink for a special occasion?” When somebody quits drinking because they have an addiction, they have chosen an abstinence-life. Support them in that decision. Staying sober can be difficult, and just one drink can cause a relapse. People with a substance use disorder find that they are better off completely drug and alcohol-free. Please respect that decision.
- “Can you be my designated driver next week?” Please don’t ask this question to people in recovery. A person who recently quit drinking or using drugs is in a vulnerable position when they’re exposed to a drinking lifestyle. This can be a big trigger for relapse. When an addicted person is around intoxicated people, it may make them reminisce about their substance use or feel the urge to participate because “it seems like so much fun.” A person who decides to get sober is making a brave decision to reclaim their lives from the disease that was hurting, or maybe killing, them. Be a good friend and offer alternatives to activities or settings that involve a lot of drinking. (Meet at a coffee shop instead of a bar!)
You can be a powerful force for good in your loved one’s life, but remember that recovery is a lifelong process. Recovery in the first year is fragile, and your loved one needs a supportive family and friends. Being mindful of where they are at in their journey will help you strengthen your bonds. Learn more about addiction and recovery if you want to do more to help them. They need a strong network of people who care on their side.
Help is Available
If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol use, and think you may have a problem, help is always available. We’ve helped many people reclaim their lives and learn to live substance-free.
Please give us a call at 1-800-970-8774. All calls are 100% confidential.