Encouragement and support is important to people who are in recovery from substance abuse. While you may not fully understand the disease of addiction, being able to fully support a family member or friend who is in recovery can mean all the difference in the world. While you may have the best intentions there are some things that you may say that will rub them the wrong way. More often that not, you are not intending to be insensitive or cruel, but sometimes your words of support and encouragement can end up negatively impacted your addicted loved one or friend, and it can affect their self-esteem and confidence.
The following are 8 things you avoid telling a recovering addict.
‘Are You Cured Yet?’
Recovering from the ravages of drug and alcohol addiction does not have a set timetable; it is a chronic disorder, and during a person’s individual journey in sobriety the psychological remnants of addiction have subtle and cunning ways that it can re-enter their lives. For many who are not familiar with the nature of addiction as a disease, they may view it in a mindset of other curable diseases. Asking an addict if they are cured of their addiction can make them feel like they are failing in some ways in working their individual plan of recovery.
‘You Can Have One Drink’
Another one of the things you avoid telling a recovering addict is they can have one drink or say it is alright to take a drug. For an alcoholic or drug addict who has worked hard in recovery, telling them they can have “just one drink” or “just one toke” can be seen as minimizing the pain and struggle they have undergone to get to this point. That first drink or use of a drug may not immediately lead them to relapse, but it definitely leads them in the direction of relapse. If a recovering addict does slip and start using drugs and alcohol on a regular basis after a period of sobriety, they more than likely will end up in worse situation than they were when they first went to treatment.
‘After a Few Years, You Will Be Able to Drink or Use Normally’
Oftentimes people may have the misconception that addicts can return to “normal” drinking or substance use after a period in which they “dry out”. If you tell a loved one or friend in recovery they can drink or use normally after a period of being clean is very misleading and given the often fragile state of mind of the addict, they may silently agree with you. Depending on other relapse-type behaviors they may be exhibiting, giving them “permission” to use again leaves the door wide open for them to do so.
‘You Are the Addict… I Don’t Need Help’
Perhaps one of the biggest things you avoid telling a recovering addict is they are the only party that needs help in addressing their addiction. It’s true…the responsibility of stopping substance use and learning the life and coping skills needed to stay sober rest largely on the addict. However, by telling the addict you don’t need any help you are ignoring the bigger picture. In the larger picture, Addiction is a family disease and the effects addiction has on family members can be just as severe as what the addicts experiences. As a family member, you must step back and understand that you may have contributed to the development of a loved one’s substance abuse issue.
‘You Don’t look Like an Alcoholic or an Addict’
When most people think about addiction and addicts, it can conjure up vivid imagery of people who are destitute, in poor shape and homeless among other thoughts. The truth is that many who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction can hide their addictions and may look normal unless you are aware of the signs and symptoms. By telling the alcoholic and addict they don’t look like one, you in effect may be minimizing the gravity of their situation.
‘Why Do You Still Go to Meetings?’
For the recovering addict, the importance of 12-Step meetings or similar self-help groups are an important foundation for continuing recovery. These mutual support groups continually benefit the addict by providing continual motivation and encouragement as they progress in their recovery. Asking your recovering loved one why they still go to meetings can reinforce the idea that the addict either should be “cured” of their addiction. Additionally, you may be making the addict feel they aren’t progressing fast enough in their recovery.
‘You Have a Job and A Great Family… There is No Way You Are an Addict’
As stated in an earlier paragraph, many people may operate under preconceived notions of what addiction is or what an addict look like. Many addicts are high functioning and are able to hold down their jobs and attend to their family obligations while living a secret life as an addict. Again, making this type of statement is looking at addiction only at a face value level. Addiction has many faces and backgrounds.
‘You Can Quit Using At Any Time’
Probably the most common phrase that people will tell alcoholics or addicts. Many feel that addiction would stop if the addict just quits using substances. Addiction is more about the mental and psychological and the actual use of the drug is a symptom of deeper issues. The addict may stop using, but if the deeper issues are not addressed, addiction will continue and can manifest itself in different ways.
Ways You Can Support the Addict in Your Life
In those instances where the wrong thing is said to an addict, it is more than often due to misinformation than outright prejudice. In order to truly support an addicted loved one, there are some things that you can do to provide the right kind of support that will encourage and empower them in their recovery journey. The best way to accomplish this is through educating yourself about addiction. Do your research either at the library or through reputable online sources. You can also attend family-oriented sober support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Additionally, you want to be empathetic and take the time to really listen to what your loved one is telling you.
Most importantly, you want to point a loved one to the appropriate resources in the event they are struggling with their recovery.