Addiction is often viewed as some type of moral failing and addicts are seen as deviants or people without discipline or self-control. This can further compound the stress people with addiction are under, making their struggle that much harder. Here are some things you should never say to a recovering addict.
“You are ruining your life, my life or your kids’ life”
There is nothing you can tell an addict about how they are ruining their life that they haven’t already told themselves, a million different ways. They know what they have to lose, you piling on is not helping. They need your support, not your judgment. They got plenty of judgment from themselves and society at large. This also just adds to the shame they’re already dealing with.
“You’re better than this”/ “You don’t look like an addict to me”
Statements like this which suggest that addiction is a problem that only certain types of people deal with are founded on racist, classist ideas. Addiction can happen to anyone and such statements are evidence of the stigma connected to drug addiction. This stigma is one of the reasons it’s often so difficult for people to accept that they need help and seek it out. Instead, tell them you’re proud of the effort they’re making and let them know you’re there to support them.
“XYZ beat his addiction in no time or without rehab”
Everyone’s addiction is different and there is no value to be gained in comparing them. If anything, all it can do is give the person in recovery more pressure which can compromise their recovery.
“Why can’t you just stop drinking”/“Did you really need to go to rehab?”
This invalidates their struggle. There are no easy solutions when it comes to drug addiction. You need to acknowledge that the process will be challenging and that seeking treatment is incredibly brave. Worse, you don’t want to make it seem like they are overestimating the seriousness of the problem at hand.
“What’s the worst thing you ever did when you were using”
The curiosity is understandable, but it’s important to remember that while for you those are just interesting stories that you can later share with your friends, to a recovering addict those are experiences they likely deeply regret, people they likely caused serious harm too. If you must talk to them about it, it has to be done seriously and not like it’s just mere curiosity for you.
“Is life without drugs and partying boring now?”
The last thing you need to be doing is encouraging a recovering addict think fondly of the past.
“I feel bad for you”
While you may mean well, nobody wants to be pitied. Second, these sorts of statements now transfer focus to you. The focus should be on the person in recovery, not you.
“Why did you even begin using?”
First, so many people use drugs, they just don’t get addicted. Second, the reasons certain people get addicted are complex and varied, asking this question suggests they chose addiction. Nobody chooses addiction.
“If you don’t stop, I’m leaving you”
Avoid threats and ultimatums when talking to someone in recovery. Threats and ultimatums can position you as having more power in the relationship than your loved one which can be especially challenging because they are already not in control of their addiction. Setting boundaries is important and walking away may be the right step for you, especially if it’s harming you, but you shouldn’t use it as a threat.
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