What to Say (and Not Say) to Someone in Addiction Recovery

Written by Journey Pure Staff

Recovering from drug or alcohol abuse is a deeply emotional experience. A person in recovery often struggles with feelings of both accomplishment and dread. Often a person in addiction recovery is most vulnerable to what is said by their closest friends and relatives since these are the people who figure large in their life.

No matter how noble your intentions, conversation with someone newly in recovery is fraught with triggers. What can be said without setting this person off? What are the words to communicate support for your friend or loved one’s progress without adding to their stress?

Four Things to Say During Addiction Recovery

“How’s it going?”

Sometimes, upon learning that someone is in recovery, staying vague is the way to go. Try this instead of “How long have you gone without a drink?” or “How does it feel?” which have a way of coming off preachy, intrusive, or rendering one’s journey toward sobriety a binary, success/failure type of thing.

“What can I do to help?”

If you’re genuinely interested in helping, asking this question (and following up with a concrete way in which you can help) can mean the world to a person in recovery. The simple offer of a ride to and from meetings, for instance, can make a big difference in the recovering person’s new life.

“Good for you! You deserve to live a happy and full life.”

One thing to remember when interacting with a person who has recently made the decision to change his life is to accentuate the positive. Questions like, “What would happen if you started back up again?” or “Just one?” put the focus on what the recovering person is “giving up,” when in fact the process of recovery involves coming to terms with all that one has.

“You can do it!”

There’s no two ways about it—recovery is tough. Roughly 50 percent of people struggling with addiction relapse at least once, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. With that in mind, the recovering person needs all the support and encouragement he or she can get.

Four Questions to Avoid Asking During Addiction Recovery

“Funny, you don’t look/act like an alcoholic/addict.”

Addiction is a disease that can affect anybody, regardless of race, age, social status, intelligence, or temperament. Unless you’ve gone through the recovery process or work in a rehabilitation facility, chances are excellent you haven’t met as many addicts as the person in recovery has.

“What was your rock bottom/moment of clarity?”

Let’s face it: hearing all about the worst moment of a person’s life can be fascinating stuff. The reason it’s so entertaining is because, quite often, it’s a matter of life and death, involving deeply personal issues of shame, self-awareness, and spirituality. Which is exactly why it’s a rude question.

“You can still drink, right? You were addicted to heroin/marijuana/painkillers, not booze.”

Addiction is addiction is addiction. Just because a person might be in recovery for one kind of substance doesn’t make them impervious to others. And while alcohol might be more socially acceptable than other drugs, it still has a huge potential for abuse and addiction.

“How do you know you’re an alcoholic/addict?”

At best, this question comes off ignorant about the struggle of addiction. At worst, it sounds like a challenge to the recovering person’s judgment and sense of self. In either case, you’ll want to avoid this one. Meanwhile, attending a meeting with a friend or family member in recovery is a huge gesture of support. It also provides a real education in matters of addiction recovery.

Get Help for Your Loved One

Family Programming is a wonderful way to understand the treatment your loved one is receiving while getting the support you need to move forward. Families also learn how their loved one will have one year of support and continuing care through the JourneyPure Coaching™ app. If you have a family member that needs help beating an addiction, please contact us today and our admissions department will walk you through the process, from a free benefits check to an overview of treatment options. We are here to help.