Words hold power as a source of motivation or discouragement. You have probably received compliments or criticism that have affected you; either you worked harder, or you simply gave up. Your words hold the same power. Even if you don’t mean to be rude, your words may carry the wrong message, which can impact a recovering addict’s self-esteem and confidence and affect the overall result of their treatment. So be careful with your words, and make sure you do not cause more harm than good.
Here are the things you should not say when dealing with a recovering addict.
“It must be tiring to go to all those meetings.”
Meetings sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are important because they teach addicts how to live without alcohol and drugs. You may not understand their importance, or how difficult it is to commit to attending regular meetings, but these meetings are lifelines for recovering addicts. It is better to support your family member or loved one in attending regular meetings and committing to a new and improved lifestyle.
“Aren’t you cured yet?”
Addiction is a chronic disease and there is no way to “get over it”. Addiction can be controlled, but not cured. People addicted know that recovery is a long process, but maybe this is not how you see it. Instead of constantly asking them when they will get cured completely, take the time to better know and understand the disease of addiction. Avoid reminding them of their disease.
“You can’t help, you’re an addict.”
When people ignore an addict’s offer of help, it makes them feel worthless. Though they may need more help themselves because of their substance abuse, it allows them to heal and move forward when they know they can do good things to help others, even just by lending a hand.
“You can have one drink or toke, you’ll be fine.”
Recovering addicts have struggled enormously in recovery to gain what they have now. Telling them “one drink or snort is fine” could jeopardize their whole treatment and may trigger a relapse. It would be helpful if you also stay away from beer and drugs when you are with them, to support rather than hinder their recovery.
“You’re getting better, quit therapy and get sober on your own.”
It’s virtually impossible for addicts to combat and control their addiction without professional help. Therapists help addicts to understand their addiction and triggers, and teach them strategies to fight it in healthy ways. Do not discourage any recovering addict from seeking professional help.