8 Things to Say to Someone in Recovery
Words have power.
If you want to support a friend or family member in recovery, carefully chosen expressions of love and encouragement are priceless. These phrases will help you communicate your support in the most meaningful way.
1. I Love You.
People in recovery are often dealing with feelings of guilt and shame related to how they treated others while they were actively abusing drugs or alcohol. As a result, they may believe that they’re unworthy of continued love.
Remember that addiction makes people do and say things that are out of character. It’s okay to love your friend or family member, but hate the way they’ve acted when they’re under the influence. Acknowledging the complexity of your own feelings can help you find a way to move forward with your relationship.
2. You’re Not Alone.
The stigma surrounding substance use disorders means that people often suffer in silence. As a result, they start to believe that they are the only one who has ever struggled to overcome an addiction.
Reminding a loved one that they are not alone may mean sharing your own recovery story, finding examples of sober role models around you, or pointing out that about 10 percent of the U.S. population has struggled with addiction at some point. Openly discussing how common addiction is can help your loved one feel less isolated in their recovery efforts.
3. Everyone Needs Help Sometimes.
Our culture encourages people to try to fix their problems on their own, but the reality is that we all need help sometimes. It would be silly to try to fix a broken leg at home or remove your own wisdom teeth, so there’s no need to feel bad about seeking professional help for substance abuse.
Addiction is a biologically-based brain disease. It’s not a character defect or a problem that can be cured with mere willpower. A full continuum of care is necessary to provide the foundation for a lasting recovery.
4. How Are You Feeling?
Substance use often begins as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder. Encouraging your loved one to share how they feel promotes the development of positive self-care strategies for continued wellness.
Note that asking your loved one how they feel doesn’t mean you need to act as their personal therapist. You can share insight from your personal experience, if applicable, but it’s often best to simply listen. If there are specific issues that your loved one is concerned about, you can encourage them to contact their counselor.
5. How Can I Help?
No two people with a substance use disorder are exactly alike, so be leery of assuming you know what your loved one needs. Some people thrive under the guidance of a 12-Step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, while others prefer secular support. Some people rely heavily on holistic care such as yoga and art therapy, but others get a handle on their sobriety using more traditional therapeutic techniques. You won’t know what works for your loved one until you ask.
Another important benefit of asking what your loved one needs is that it puts your loved one in control of their recovery journey, which leads to feelings of empowerment. However, if you know that there are specific issues proving to be challenging, such as finding transportation to appointments or needing help with insurance forms for necessary treatment, it’s fine to offer your assistance in a respectful way.
6. Let’s Hang Out.
Loneliness is common in early sobriety, since people in recovery often built their previous social circle around drinking or using drugs. You can show your support by simply planning fun sober activities with your loved one. For example:
- Check out a new movie together.
- Play a favorite board game or video game.
- Head outside for a picnic or a scenic nature walk.
- Work up a sweat together at the local gym.
- Try out new recipes for healthy foods, then invite others over for a delicious movie.
7. I’m Proud of You.
Making major life changes is never easy and it’s common for people in recovery to feel discouraged when they’re not progressing as fast as they hoped. Without recovery support, these feelings increase the risk of relapse.
Reaffirming that you recognize how hard your loved one is working and are proud of the changes they’ve already made will mean the world to them. This is especially true when your loved one meets important recovery milestones, such as earning a 30-day sobriety chip or completing residential treatment.
8. I Know You Are Struggling, But There’s Always Hope.
If your loved one has relapsed or is struggling to control cravings, it’s important to let them know that this doesn’t mean there is no hope for recovery. It simply means that it’s time to reevaluate their care plan and find new treatment options that are better suited for their unique needs.
At Waypoint Recovery Center’s South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, we provide evidence-based care personalized to meet each client’s needs. We understand that addiction is a chronic illness and are committed to providing the support necessary for long-term sobriety.