5 Unhelpful Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone with an Addiction

Whether you have walked in the shoes of someone dealing with an addiction or not, we all must take careful consideration of how our words may impact someone who has. Unfortunately, TV shows and movies can heavily influence our understanding of addiction—even when that information is skewed, unfair or downright inaccurate.

When talking with someone who is facing addiction and its effects, stay focused on being supportive and understanding. Here are some examples of things NOT to say and why they can be hurtful.

1. Why don’t you just stop?

Probably the biggest misconception is that those who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling or anything else can simply stop if they put their mind to it. This is a gross oversimplification of what is really going on when addiction is present. Physiological factors combine with emotional and behavioral factors to create a very complex issue, so trying to boil it down to “just stop, though” isn’t helpful. Also, to insinuate that there is something wrong with the person’s willpower is pretty insulting.

2. Your brother can just drink at social functions, why can’t you?

Even though we all learn that individuals are different from one another at a very young age, this concept somehow becomes complicated as we grow up. It doesn’t matter if some other person doesn’t struggle with addiction—even someone close to the person who does—because everyone is different. Bringing this up will only send the message that the person isn’t “trying hard enough” and probably won’t allow them to feel understood and respected.

3. How long have you been clean?

Each person’s journey in recovery is deeply personal. When, where and with whom they decide to share the details of their experiences is entirely up to them. Also, some people may not be keeping a precise counter when it comes to how long they have abstained. There are many other ways to gauge how someone is doing on their road to recovery.

It should also be noted that, much of the time, those with longer periods of sobriety tend to receive more praise than those with shorter periods. The person who has an hour of sobriety is working just as hard as someone who has a year. Instead of asking this question, offer an ear to your friend or family member if they would like to tell you how they are feeling about their journey.

4. The best way to kick the habit is…

Nope. Don’t start a sentence like this! This is harmful because no one knows the “best way” to move forward in their recovery—that is for the person walking that road to figure out for themselves. We may feel as if we are being helpful by offering tips, but remember that addiction is more complex than other experiences. Save tips for make-up tutorials and offer support and encouragement to those with addiction, instead.

5. Does it run in your family?

One thing that tends to happen is, when we find out someone is struggling with something that is hard for us to understand, we may feel the need to ask a bunch of questions. This serves the purpose of furthering our own comprehension of the issue, but there are other ways we can do that—if we really need to do it at all. Remember that recovery, again, is deeply personal. Try not to put someone in the situation of deciding whether they want to disclose personal information to you or to kindly turn you down.

Doing your own independent research on addiction trends and origins can be helpful in destigmatizing the problem. But, it’s important to do the bulk of that research yourself and not depend on the person who is already busy with their own recovery to educate you. Remind yourself that your role is of a supporter, not a student.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

93 comments

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Indeed, some lack common sense....

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heather g
heather g2 years ago

Would people really need this guidance? Send them to an AA meeting .....

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Siyus C
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Veronica D
.2 years ago

Thank You!

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Veronica D
.2 years ago

Thank You!

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Veronica D
.2 years ago

Thank You!

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 years ago

Good to know.

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Georgina E M

tyfs

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Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

"Addiction. state of being given up to some habit, practice or pursuit., esp to narcotics." Or so says the 'The American College Dictionary". My version is Copyright 1947 -1957, by Random House. It is as tattered and worn out as me.Perhaps there is a newer version that mentions excessive gain of wealth by manipulable procedures, political ambition based on personal objectives, sexual dominance, hoarding of "things" and most painful to me is hoarding of animals.
I have not figured out what normal is. It is probably very boring.

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