Josh Chandler | April 21, 2021

What NOT to Say to Someone in Recovery

How to Avoid Saying the Wrong Thing to Someone in Recovery

If someone you know is recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, there are times when you might want to offer words of encouragement or support. Yet even the most well-meaning friends and family members can inadvertently say the wrong thing or be taken out of context.

Of course, it’s normal for most people to try and say encouraging things or be supportive. Yet, some people might also feel awkward about the situation and not be aware of what not to say to someone in recovery.

The recovering person is in a vulnerable situation and experiencing plenty of emotional turmoil. Likewise, family members and loved ones may be feeling a range of different emotions too. While it’s normal to think of the right thing to say to someone in rehab or medical detox, you also don’t want to say the wrong thing.

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Even when family members and friends are trying to be helpful, there are times when the words they say can do more harm than good. Some people may also say things that can be hurtful without realizing what they’ve said. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering what not to say to someone in recovery:

“Why don’t you just quit?”

Most people struggling with addiction do want to stop drinking or taking drugs. But an addict simply can’t quit without access to the proper support and recovery tools to help them. Telling someone just to quit or use some willpower means you’re dismissing the real challenges they face throughout their recovery.

“Do you think you’ll beat it this time?”

Asking someone in recovery whether they think they’ll beat it this time automatically implies that you don’t believe in them. It’s also a judgmental way to remind them that they might have relapsed in the past, and you think they’ll do it in the future too. Occasional relapses characterize addiction. Just because a recovering person relapses, it doesn’t mean treatment has failed. It simply means different relapse prevention strategies need to be put in place to reduce the chances of it happening again.

“Why don’t you try…?”

Even if your intentions are good, offering suggestions on things a recovering person might try may not be what they need. After all, everyone’s recovery journey is unique to them. Before offering advice, please take a moment to think about it. Just because one tactic or method worked well for someone else you might know doesn’t mean it will be the right option for your loved one.

Helpful Things to Say Instead

Not that you know what not to say to someone in recovery, it can sometimes help to have some conversation starters ready. After all, getting sober is scary. Many people in early recovery may feel lonely and unsupported during the early stages of sobriety. During Sober living treatment, They may also feel isolated and think that no one understands what they’re going through. Here are some tips to get positive interaction going:

“I’m here for you”

The simple words ‘I am here for you’ can let a recovering person know that you’re there to support them. Even if your contact time is limited while they’re in rehab, knowing they have support and understanding from a loved one can be invaluable.

“I believe in you”

Telling a recovering person that you believe in them can go a long way to improving their self-esteem. Many people with substance abuse issues have problems with low self-esteem, and they tend to doubt their capabilities. Knowing a loved one believes in them can help provide encouragement.

“I’m proud of you”

Many people struggling with substance abuse issues experience feelings of shame and guilt. The simple act of telling a loved one that you’re proud of them reinforces that they’re doing the right thing by focusing on recovery.

Let Your Loved One Know How Much You Care

There are plenty of ways to encourage and support a loved one in rehab. The key is to be patient and be prepared to take things one day at a time while in rehab.

Take some time to understand more about how important your role as a family member can be to someone in rehab. Our therapy and family support groups are excellent sources of information. You’ll also meet others who have loved ones in recovery, so you’ll have plenty of support too. Contact Muse Treatment today at (800) 426-1818 to learn how our treatment process and intervention techniques can help you better interact with someone struggling in recovery.

Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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