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What you Should – and Shouldn’t – Say to Someone in Recovery

 

Addiction recovery is a big step. It is a turning point in many people’s lives that sets them on a healthier path for their future. However, it takes work and commitment. Once they complete a luxury rehab program, they are not magically “cured” and able to forget about the past. They must work each day to remain sober and prevent relapse. Though this becomes easier with time, it is still something they must be aware of.

When a friend or loved one returns from addiction treatment, it can be challenging to know just what to say. You want to let them know that you are there to support them but don’t want to say the wrong thing. You may be curious about their experience but don’t want to offend them or get too personal. When it comes to discussing their recovery, it is a good idea to let them lead the way. They will share what they feel comfortable disclosing when they are ready.

Phrases to Avoid

There are certain things you should avoid saying to someone in recovery:

  • “You don’t seem/look like an addict.”

Addiction does not discriminate and no two people are affected exactly the same. While some people may have more noticeable struggles, others are very high functioning. They may have done a good job at covering their use or making excuses for it. But that does not mean that it did not take a toll on their health, their life, their career, or their relationships. Just because they don’t “fit” a stereotypical impression of what someone with addiction might be like, does not decrease the severity of the situation. These types of comments can make someone feel shameful of their substance use or embarrassed to admit that they had a problem.

  • “Do you mind if I have a drink?”

Chances are, many people won’t speak up and say yes, they mind, because they don’t want to give off a poor impression or hurt someone’s feelings. But in reality, your drinking does affect them and can make you appear insensitive to their efforts to turn their life around. If you are going to be supportive of their recovery, that means you will probably have to make some changes as well. Opt for non-alcoholic beverages and avoid situations where heavy drinking occurs. Be respectful of their sobriety and the effort they have put into recovery.

  • “Are you cured yet?”

There is no “cure” for addiction. Those in recovery learn to manage their triggers and cravings and establish healthier routines to prevent relapse, but there is always risk, no matter how small. Addiction is a disease, but one that can be managed. It is not like breaking a bone where once it is healed you can go back to the way things were and forget about it. Those in recovery must make changes to the way they’re living.

  • “Just stop using/drinking.”

If it were that easy, everyone would do it. People do not develop addictions because they want to. Though initially it may have been their choice to start using, drugs and alcohol change the way the brain functions and they may be past the point where they can stop on their own without professional help. This phrase can be hurtful because it implies that it was their choice to keep using or a lack of willpower that held them back.

Phrases that can be Encouraging

There are many things that you can say to someone in recovery that can be motivating and encouraging.

  • “What can I do to help?”

Everyone is different. It can be hard to know what exactly you can do to support them in their recovery efforts, so the best thing to do is ask. Maybe there are specific things they need help doing, or maybe they’re looking for someone to spend time with or try out a new activity. Perhaps they need a babysitter while they go to a support group meeting. Their needs can change as well, so be open and just ask. This lets the person know that you care and want to be there for them without being pushy and making assumptions about how you can be of best use. Keep checking in from time to time. While they may not need much now, there may be ways you can help later on.

  • “I’m proud of you.”

Just a few words of acknowledgment can go a long way. Making the choice to seek treatment can be scary. But telling someone that you are proud of them shows that you recognize the effort it has taken to get where they are. It helps them to see that there is someone on their side who supports their progress and does not look badly upon them.

  • “I believe in you.”

Similar to being proud of someone, believing in them in powerful as well. It lets them know that they are not alone, and someone else has confidence in their ability to overcome addiction. Recovery can be tough and they may face trying times or even small relapses, but having the support of family and friends can keep them on the right track and pushing forward.

You don’t have to make grandiose gestures and put a great deal of attention on their recovery. But being there for them, acknowledging the progress they have made and the effort it has taken, and doing what you can to support their journey can make a difference. Show respect, compassion, and empathy. Let them guide you in how you can be supportive and try to put yourself in their shoes before commenting.

Start your journey to recovery at Chapters Capistrano, a Los Angeles rehab center, by calling 949-371-4198. Make the choice to start a new chapter in your life and become a positive role model for others.