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Top Ten Things Not to Say to a Recovering Addict

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Top Ten Things Not to Say to a Recovering Addict

Shifting perceptions about drug addiction is having a significant impact on those in recovery.  Formerly, people who relapsed after a period of abstinence were often ostracized by family and friends as being hopelessly lost.  This negative response to what is usually only a temporary setback in the healing process, can lead to devastating consequences. As a result, it is important to understand how best to support those that are struggling to maintain long term sobriety.  This begins with being aware that a relapse can be pivotal to the entire rehabilitation process and ensuring that it is not derailed by a callous or thoughtless comment.  As such, the following suggestions may prevent you from sabotaging your loved one’s sobriety goals.

Top Ten Things Not to Say to A Recovering Addict

    1. “You’ll go back to using drugs or drinking eventually”.  The recovery process is unique for everyone and their ability to stay sober is determined by a number of variables such as level of support, commitment, paying attention to and avoiding relapse triggers.
    2. “Be a good sport, I’m sure it will be okay just this once”. By making this suggestion you are lowering the individual’s ability to resist temptation and stay sober.  Just one drink or use event can lead to a potentially dangerous relapse.  Never invite a recovering addict to engage in a pattern of behavior that has proven to be harmful for them in the past.
    3. “It must be so hard for you to resist the constant temptation to get high.” Although this is often true for most people in addiction, it is counterproductive and often dangerous to make such as comment.
    4. “I feel so sorry for you that you can’t drink or use drugs anymore” Expressing undue amounts of sympathy or pity is setting the addict up to feeling depressed or bad about themselves which is a precursor to using drugs or drinking to feel better.
    5. Everyone I know is still drinking and doing drugs, why can’t you?” This is an extremely destructive comment because, in essence, it is telling the individual that something is wrong with them.
    6. “Have you felt like taking a drink or a hit today? Avoid this question as it creates an image that the recovering addict may later want to follow through on.
    7. “So many people are dying from a drug overdose. It makes me wonder if you can really beat this horrible disease.” This statement produces doubt and despair rather than encouragement which is what every person in recovery needs, especially if they are struggling with the onset of a relapse.
    8. “Remember how much fun we used to have getting high (drunk); don’t you miss that?”  This question is literally invoking a relapse memory trigger.
    9. “They say everybody relapse so I guess you will soon too.”  Although many people in recovery experience one or more relapse events, not everyone do.
    10. You mean you are still going to those meetings, even now?”  There are varying levels of difficulty when it comes to staying sober after being in long term addiction.  Meetings provide ongoing support that most people in addiction find effective in helping them to stay sober as well as for the opportunity to help others who are just finding their way out of a drug abuse lifestyle.  

These are just a few comments that people in recovery say hurt rather than help them.  Anyone can support a friend or loved one stay in recovery by being sensitive and aware of the impact their words can have on someone’s life and future.

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