Communication is an essential part of the recovery process for anyone learning to cope with the many complex physical and emotional issues related to their addiction. An equally important part of treatment is support from family members and friends. Yet if you happen to be in the position of being someone who interacts with a recovering addict on a regular basis, there are some things better left unsaid.
Questioning Whether They Have a Problem
People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol aren’t always stumbling out of bars or passed out in an alleyway with a needle in their arm. Questioning the legitimacy of their problem unintentionally minimizes their struggle. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender, economic background, personality, or moral character.
Suggesting Having an Occasional Drink
Recovering addicts choose abstinence for a reason. If they were really able to only have an occasional drink after work or on special occasions, they wouldn’t need to be in a rehab program in the first place.
Offering Unfounded Advice
For someone recovering from a dependency of prescription drugs, avoid suggesting it’s okay to take this pill or that one because you do take it and have had no problem. While you may mean well, only their doctor can determine what’s appropriate for them to take if they have a valid medical need.
Appointing Them as the Designed Driver
Just because someone is abstaining from alcohol doesn’t mean they want to be the go-to DD. It’s also not a good idea to put someone currently undergoing treatment in close proximity to places where alcohol is readily available; instead, suggest alternative activities where they won’t feel awkward.
Asking When They’ll Be ‘Cured’
The process of recovering from some form of substance abuse isn’t the same experience as going on a short-term diet or enduring a temporary punishment. A recovering addict will always have to avoid certain situations while working to find a new focus in their life.
Offering Sympathy for What They Can No Longer Do
Not being able to drink or use drugs again isn’t something that requires sympathy or apologies. Treat them as you would normally and forget about what they can no longer do and focus on the new possibilities they will have in a life without dependency.
Claiming to Understand What They’re Going Through
Unless you’ve dealt with a substance abuse problem personally, you don’t have a real perspective on what it’s like. Avoid meaningless comparisons and offer support and companionship that’s likely to be appreciated.
Anyone recovering from an addiction is going to need the support of friends and family members as they go start or continue with the recovery process that’s part of their treatment. Even when being mindful of certain topics or avoiding awkward questions, realize that you can still have productive interactions with someone who is likely to appreciate a friendship without unintentional judgments or false assumptions as they make their way through recovery.