Individuals recovering from alcohol or substance abuse are often in a highly emotional state. They are learning new ways of living, building a whole new lifestyle andmay even be coping with doubts about the ability to stay clean. At such a time, there are some things loved ones may say to the recovering individual which may jeopardize the person’s efforts to recovery.
When you’re trying to help, carefully listen to what the person and their doctor or counselor tells you. Avoid common phrases that are more likely to hurt than help. Here are a few common ones.
I know what you’re going through
Unless you’ve personally overcome addiction, you have no idea what they are going through. And even if you have overcome your own substance dependence, everyone goes through a different experience. It’s much better to simply let them know you love them and are there for them.
You’ll never change
A person may go through recovery and suffer a relapse. They are likely to already have a lot of self-doubt. Do not make negative statements that confirm their worst fears. It’s better to say something like, “I am with you. Keep trying.”
Why can’t you stop?
Addiction costs people their whole lives. Addicts know this. If they knew how to prevent and overcome addiction, they would choose sobriety. Don’t ask why they don’t or can’t quit, ask them how you can help them.
Threatening an addict rarely works. For many, addiction is as a mental as well as physical battle. They may be desperate to walk away but when the cravings hit, they can’t control it. Only supervised, professional, effective treatment can help them overcome the urge to use again. Help them get that.
I’m ashamed of you
The addict is already unhappy. Telling them that you are ashamed of them just makes it worse and may even re-trigger the vicious cycle of drug abuse and self-loathing. It would be better to encourage the person to get into treatment.
Addiction can actually change the brain chemistry and make your loved one think only of the next fix. Help them seek treatment and support them in their recovery.