When you first learn someone you know has a drug addiction, it can be difficult to know what to say. Recovering from addiction is a very personal and emotional experience. A person in recovery will be extremely vulnerable, especially to what is said by their closest family and friends. Even well-intentioned comments can come off as impolite or judgemental.
If you’ve never met someone who has struggled with addiction, you likely will someday. There are more than 23 million Americans with a substance abuse illness, and two-thirds know someone who has struggled with addiction.
Knowing that dealing with addiction is an extremely delicate subject, how can you communicate support for your friend or loved one without hurting their feelings or worse, triggering them? What to say to a drug addict?
What to say to someone in drug or alcohol recovery
- How’s it going?
Refrain from asking how many days they’re sober, or how they feel now that they’re sober, as those can come off as judgemental. More general is the way to go here.
- How can I help?
Only if you’re genuinely interested. Offering to help may mean the world to a person in recovery, as their new sober lifestyle likely doesn’t include past friends out of necessity.
- I’m happy for you!
As a general rule, focus on the positive. Avoid asking questions like, “So you can never have another drink again?” Or “What would happen if you had just one?” Instead of framing it as giving something up, keep in mind your loved one has just discovered all he or she has.
- You’ve got this!
About half of the people in recovery will relapse at least one time, so all encouragement is appreciated.
What not to ask a recovering addict
- You don’t seem like an addict.
Addiction affects people from all walks of life, so no one “looks like” an addict.
- When did you hit rock bottom?
This is an intensely personal question and is rude to ask. If a newly sober person wants to share, they will.
- When did you know you had a problem?
Again, if someone wants to share this with you they will. This comes off as ignorant to just how difficult addiction is.
- What are some things drug addicts say?
Every person is different, so don’t assume that all addicts look or act the same way.
- Why do addicts blame everyone but themselves?
If you harbor some resentment toward your loved one, keep some distance until you can avoid being aggressive. While you both need to heal from the experience, the person in recovery is grappling with the damage they’ve done while in the depths of their addiction.
If your friend or loved one is on the other side of the worst of their addiction, that’s something to celebrate. Do your best to keep an open mind and celebrate their successes. They are undertaking an extremely difficult and emotional journey and learning new ways to cope. Remember that people can change, and the commitment to sober living is a commendable one.
If you need help
No one decides to drink or use drugs thinking one day they won’t be able to stop. If you or a family member needs help beating addiction, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We are here to help and have several flexible treatment options to meet your needs.