Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone in Recovery

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As addiction becomes prevalent in most societies all over the globe, having people who underwent rehabilitation and are now in recovery is no surprise. Maybe you or someone you know already have friends who are in recovery. While you yourself didn’t have problems with substance abuse and addiction, you can only imagine the hardships your friend have gone through. However, you can always offer your support.


One thing to remember though is to be sensitive and try to say just the right thing. This is a critical time for a recovering addict, and he needs all the help, support, and understanding that he can get. So give it a shot. Talk to your recovering friend (or even family member), but remember not to say these 10 things. Ever.

1. I can relate to your addiction. I myself am totally addicted to coffee. Really. now? You can’t go a day without coffee? Then you and your buddy must have so much in common. Because you drinking your double espresso ruined your marriage, put you neck-deep in debt, made you sick, and cost you your career, right?

No, it didn’t? Then maybe you shouldn’t use the word “addict” as much because in fact, you’re not really that much of an addict as you thought you were.

2. I can’t imagine you being an addict before? How awful were you back then? You shouldn’t ask this under any situation. Seriously, why would you want to know how difficult and dark his past were? Probably, he’s done things you never imagined, but will this make things better for your friend? You may only end up gossiping about it or judging your friend with his revelation.

Besides, if he wants to tell you the things he did or how he was while he was using, he would’ve told you without you having to ask about it. His life story, like with anyone, is not a shocking story meant to entertain you or other people.

3. How long have you been clean? Do you ever think you can use/drink again, even just one every once in a while? Chances are, he may have done or tried it before. He may have quit or abstained and then went back maybe not once but twice, even eight times. Who knows? Maybe he will change for good. However, asking this about your friend is the last thing he needs right now. It wouldn’t help his motivation to hear from other people how it is possible for him to have just one and then function normally–because it really isn’t.

4. I remember how you were before compared to now. Do you ever get bored that you don’t go out and party anymore? The truth is, his life before was filled with darkness–all those stress, drama, misery, distress, and who-knows-what-more. In fact, he may have woken up mornings wishing he was dead. He may have even tried suicide, or have been involved in serious legal or health problems. He may have lost the love of his life, his family, and so many more.

Your friend now is far from bored. He has peace of mind.

5. Didn’t you know the consequences? Why did you start in the first place? This is one of the most irritating things you can ask a recovering addict. Maybe at first he wanted to feel drunk or get high. However, it’s most likely there’s underlying–even subconscious–reasons for it. Maybe he’s been fighting inner demons all his life, maybe he has anxiety, deep-seated emotional pain, or some childhood trauma.

Whatever it is, this is not something you would want to ask someone in casual conversation.

6. I had some drinking/drug problems in the past too but I got over it. It wasn’t really that hard. This is like telling your friend that he’s not strong enough, has no will-power or self-control. Instead of showing your understanding and support, saying this is like undermining his recovery and his efforts. Telling him that you were able to stop just like that is inconsiderate and insensitive. If that is not what you want to convey, then keep this to yourself.

7. You used to go out with a lot of women/men in parties before. How are you going to meet someone now? Maybe your friend did meet his past relationships in parties, and these people are living the way he used to live. The people in his past, like him, didn’t care about their health and thought of nothing more but drugs, sex, booze, and getting high any which way they can. But apparently, none of those relationships worked out for him, and they ended up destroying each other.

Maybe at this time, your friend wants to be alone and focus on himself, his health, and his recovery. Maybe he’ll try meeting other people when he’s confident enough about his recovery and sobriety. Whatever it is, it is none of your business.

8. Seriously? You don’t look like an addict at all. What do you think an addict looks like anyway? Does it look like the guy who gets your trash? Or that bum in your street? Maybe it looks like your hairdresser, your boss, or your professor?

The thing is, you cannot tell who is an addict and who isn’t just by looking at them. Judging and addict based on stereotypes is quite ridiculous and antiquated.

9. What drugs were you using? How much were you drinking? While you don’t intend to be insensitive and you’re just probably curious, how much he uses or drinks before is irrelevant in his life now that he’s in recovery. The details are not the issue, and it’s none of your business. If your friend wants to share this with you, he would have told you. The fact that your friend is now in recovery is all that matters now.

10. I know you don’t drink, but can I drink around you? Yes, it’s totally fine. The fact that you may be together in a place that serves alcohol is already an indication that he is comfortable to be surrounded by people who drink. If he didn’t want to be in that place or around you, he wouldn’t be there.

So what are you going to say to someone in recovery?

Nothing. Don’t say anything at all.

treat him just like anyone else. Because he is. If your friend wants to share his experiences, insight, struggles, and all the details of his fight with addiction, he will. Maybe not now, but in his own time. If he still doesn’t, then just let it be.

How do you show your support to a friend or loved one in recovery? Share your stories with us!

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