Words have the power to build and destroy. Kind words to someone who is struggling with their mental health or recovery can give them a ray of hope. However, your words can also cause damage.
Recovery is an uphill battle at times. Even if you do not realize it, the things you say to someone while they journey through recovery can cause a world of hurt. You never know what someone is dealing with or the emotions they are feeling at a given time. As a result, a sentence or question you see as harmless can cause damage.
It can be challenging to figure out what you want to say to a loved one who is battling addiction. The most important thing to remember is to be kind with your words. Try to have a natural conversation where your words are chosen carefully enough not to trigger painful emotions but sincere enough not to make someone feel infantilized.
Here are five psychologically damaging things you should avoid saying to someone who is in the process of recovery:
#1. “Once an Addict, Always an Addict.”
One of the most damaging things you can say to someone in recovery is, “Once an addict, always an addict.” Words like “addict” are stigmatizing, reducing a person’s identity down to their struggle with substance use. They also imply a permanence to addiction.
Suggesting that someone cannot overcome their addiction can create feelings of powerlessness. Someone who is journeying through recovery is in the process of change. They have already overcome their addiction and are working hard to become the person they want to be. Make sure you do not minimize the struggles they have been through to get to where they are today.
#2. “I Can Feel You” or “I Know How You Are Feeling.”
These statements are some of the most common things people say to those battling addiction. While the intention is most likely pure, it can feel condescending to someone who has been through copious amounts of pain. The reality is that, unless you have been through addiction yourself, you most likely do not fully understand what someone in recovery is going through.
Instead of saying, “I know how are you feeling,” you can say, “I can not imagine what you’re going through, but I’m sure you can do this.” A sentiment like this can give an individual comfort and provide motivation to keep going.
#3. “How Can You Ruin Your Life Like This?”
Questions like “How can you ruin your life like this?” come across as more judgmental than concerned. While you may ask yourself this question when you see someone struggling with addiction, it is extremely harmful to ask a question like this to a person who is struggling.
Instead of asking this question, you can let bygones be bygones and appreciate the courage the individual is showing to change their situation. You can encourage them to think of recovery and a better life ahead. Hearing things like “How can you ruin your life like this?” is demotivating and may provoke them to lose the desire to recover.
Instead of asking, “How can you ruin your life like this?” you can say something like, “I know you have made a few mistakes, but I’m proud that you had the courage to correct them.”
#4. “How About We Grab a Drink?”
Asking someone in recovery out for a drink can be insensitive and show the person in recovery that you are not thinking of their situation. Asking someone in recovery to consume substances can trigger cravings and thoughts of using, which can lead to relapse.
If someone you care about is in recovery, it means that substance use is something they have decided to leave behind. They have gotten sober to build a new life for themselves. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid asking someone in recovery out for a drink. Instead, support them in their decision to live a happy and healthy, sober life.
#5. “Have You Thought About Your Future? What Are You Going to do Next?”
While questions like these indicate your concern and care about a loved one’s future, the timing to ask such questions may not be suitable. These questions can cause someone in recovery to overthink, doubt themselves, and create anxiety.
When you ask these questions, someone in recovery may question where they are in their journey. They may wonder if they have the opportunity for a “good” future or have anxiety about landing a “good” job. This thought process can lead to a spiral of negative thinking and emotions.
Someone in recovery will think about their future at some point. However, allow them to have their own process of recovery and healing. They will reach their goals in their own time.
Addiction is a serious issue. It can change your entire life and affect your relationships. However, when someone decides to seek recovery, they are choosing to change their life for the better. As a person who has a loved one in recovery, your words have the power to encourage their process or tear them down. Speaking to someone in recovery can require care and diligence. At Achieve Concierge, we specialize in a holistic, collaborative approach to treating a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, substance use disorders, and more. We at Achieve Concierge understand that recovery is a process of emotional and psychological battle that the person has to fight. We provide exceptional care and attention to help you overcome your struggles. Our best-in-industry healthcare professionals can help you find the path to healing. Call Achieve Concierge today at (619) 393-5871 to learn more about how we can help you recover.