Choose Your Words Carefully When Talking to Your Recovering Loved One
Addiction recovery is a delicate process and should be addressed carefully. Don’t assume you know what to say to a recovering addict because your words could be more harmful than helpful. Here are eight things to avoid saying because they could harm your loved one’s recovery.
1. “I know what you’re going through.”
Unless you’ve struggled with addiction, then you should avoid presuming to understand your loved one’s struggle. Only those in recovery know just how difficult it can be.
Still, just because you don’t understand the trials of recovery, doesn’t mean you can’t help your loved one. Tell them that even though you don’t understand their struggle, you are still willing to listen to them and support them. A supportive gesture will go much further than a presumptive one.
2. “I can’t believe you were an addict.”
Some things are best left unsaid. Even if you were utterly shocked to learn of your loved one’s addiction, you don’t need to tell them that. It’s not helpful in any way and only serves to distract from your loved one’s journey to recovery.
To best help your loved one, you should avoid talking about yourself and instead focus on listening to them.
3. “When did you realize you were addicted?”
It’s not your job to ask probing questions; it’s your job to listen. The best thing you can do is let your loved one tell you whatever they feel comfortable telling you.
Try to keep your questions vague, such as “How are you?” and “How’s it going?” and let your loved one fill in the rest.
4. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Addiction is not that big a deal.”
The problem with this statement is addiction is a big deal. And telling a recovering addict otherwise will only make them feel worse about how much they’re struggling with it.
Their struggle is real. Don’t minimize it to try to make them feel better. It will probably have the opposite effect.
5. “What makes you think you’re an addict?”
One of the worst things you could do for someone in recovery is to question their affliction. You should trust that they wouldn’t be seeking help unless they genuinely needed it.
If you doubt their condition, then they will too, and uncertainty is not what they need right now. All they need is for you to believe and support them.
6. “It’s a bummer you can’t drink anymore.”
Statements like this are particularly harmful because they are selfish lies. Maybe you’re bummed your loved one can’t drink anymore because you lost a drinking buddy. But it’s far from a bummer for your loved one, who is getting their life back.
To be unselfish, you should focus on the good things your loved one is gaining on their journey to recovery. Tell your loved one you’re proud of them for the progress they’ve made so far. They’ll surely appreciate the gesture as you encourage them to press on.
7. “I can’t wait until things get back to normal for you.”
This type of statement makes the recovery process sound like a temporary hindrance. It assumes after a short time your loved one won’t be in recovery anymore.
However, the truth is recovery is a long-term journey to health and happiness. You shouldn’t rush the process to get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. So, don’t convey a sense of urgency to your loved one. Instead, support them where they’re at in their recovery.
8. “One drink on a special occasion isn’t going to hurt.”
You can put undue pressure on your loved one by telling them what they can and cannot handle. For most recovering addicts, even one drink is too many, and they know it. Don’t play the role of the devil on their shoulder goading them into doing something they know they shouldn’t do.
Remember, you are not your loved one. You don’t know how one drink will affect them. Let them decide what they can and cannot handle on their own.
If you need assistance caring for your recovering loved one, call New Directions Addiction Recovery Services at (779) 220-0336. We are a nonprofit organization based in Crystal Lake, IL, that takes a comprehensive approach to helping individuals recover from addiction.
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