What Not to Say to Someone Struggling With Addiction

Those in recovery from alcohol or substance abuse are often in a highly emotional state. They likely have many of the same doubts you have about their ability to get clean and stay that way. For this reason, there are some things that family and friends say to addicts that aren't helpful and may even hurt the person's recovery as they navigate the physical and emotional barriers of regaining their health.

When you're trying to help, be sure to listen to what the person tells you as well as the recommendations of medical professionals. Also, do your best to avoid common phrases that are more likely to hurt than help.

I Know What You're Going Through

Unless you've personally battled addiction, you can't possibly know what the addict is going through. And even if you have overcome your own substance dependence, you did not have the same experience as this other person. It's much better to say you are sorry they are going through the situation and just let them know you love them and are there for them.

You'll Never Change

The addict may have gone through recovery before and relapsed into addiction again. They likely already have a lot of self-doubt about whether this time is different. Instead of making negative statements that confirm their worst fears, try to uplift your family member or loved one. Say something along the lines of, "It's important for you to make progress. Keep trying."

Why Can't You Just Stop?

Addiction costs people their jobs, family and other relationships, and sometimes even their lives. Addicts know this as well as anyone. If they knew how to stop the addiction in its tracks, they would choose clean living. Instead of asking why they haven't quit yet, ask them how you can help them in their recovery.

If You Don't Change, I'm Done

Issuing threats to an addict is rarely effective. For some, the addiction is as much mental as it is physical. They may have the best of intentions and plan to walk away from the substance they're abusing. However, when the craving hits, they can't control it. Supervised detox and inpatient treatment are the only things that will help them overcome the thirst to use again.

I'm Ashamed of You

The addict is already unhappy with where fate has taken them. Telling the person you are ashamed of them just heaps on emotional abuse and may even serve as a trigger that keeps them in the vicious cycle of drug abuse, self-hatred and then using again. Instead, encourage the person to get into treatment so they can be the best version of themselves.

Get Help for Your Family Member or Friend

Addiction can actually change the chemistry in your loved one's brain and make them think only of the next fix. An intervention may be necessary to help get through to them and make them realize how their actions affect their family and friends. Once you've initiated a successful intervention, encourage the person to get into a detox program with incidental medical services and then seek further treatment.

Diamond House Detox offers a variety of detox programs and supports families throughout the recovery process. Contact us for more information on how to best stage an intervention.

This content was medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet PMHNP-BC, on January 24th, 2020.