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What You Shouldn’t Say To An Alcoholic

Knowing what to say to an alcoholic can be confusing. Often intentions are good, but the words we choose can be perceived as offensive or uncaring. There are ways to show you care and want to be supportive. Follow these seven tips on what NOT to say to your loved one in alcohol recovery.

A woman holding out her hand. There are many things you should not say to an alcoholic


“Do You Miss Drinking?”

Your friend or family member is an alcoholic. He certainly misses drinking. What he doesn’t miss is complete dependence on alcohol and the havoc it brings. People in recovery have reached a point in which the benefits of sobriety FAR outweigh the temporary satisfaction of being drunk. Being able to reclaim your life and be in charge of your destiny is a beautiful thing and worth any discomfort or cravings that occur along the way.


“You’re Not An Alcoholic!”

What makes you think you know your friend better than he knows himself? No one wants their feelings and important life decisions to be discredited and undermined. It could have taken years of relapse and recovery to feel confident in one’s ability to abstain from alcohol. When you minimize his drinking as anything less than a full-fledged addiction you’re basically saying you know him best, and he’s over-dramatizing his alcohol usage. How degrading!


“I Know How You Feel.”

Unless you have an addiction, you don’t know how your friend feels. While you may have been involved in unhealthy behaviors previously and felt the repercussions that go along with bad decisions, alcoholics experience suffering that you can’t understand unless you’ve been there too. Empathy is good. Just make sure you’re not comparing your lifestyle choices to his or implying that your problems are the same or equal.


“Do You Mind If I Have A Drink?”

Your friend or family member may have been in recovery for two months or twenty years. Either way, it’s naive to assume that he doesn’t experience temptation because he’s sober. There might come a day when he attends an event knowing alcohol will be there. However, the decision to do so should be made alone, without outside suggestions or influence.


“You Don’t Drink? I Feel Bad For You.”

Sympathy is the last thing your friend or acquaintance wants. Ask yourself, “Why do you feel bad for him?” It’s likely because you enjoy the experience of drinking. You should feel bad if he starts to drink again. Why? One shot or glass of wine creates an overwhelming and uncontrollable desire to keep drinking. Your friend doesn’t feel bad for himself. In fact, he probably feels empowered and set free from the ravages of addiction.


“When Can You Stop Going To Meetings?”

Recovery doesn’t have an end date. Many people continue going to meetings for a lifetime. Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, local rehabs and other support groups provide so much more than tools that can be used to stay sober. Meetings offer connection and friendship to others that truly understand the devastating effects of addiction. These peers become a lot like family, and strong bonds serve to lift each other up in times of doubt, insecurity and hard times.


“Why Did You Start Using?”

For many alcoholics, this is a deeply personal question. Some people began drinking due to a childhood trauma, and alcohol numbed the pain. For others, occasional use led to alcohol abuse over months or even years. Some people are forthcoming about reasons that caused an addiction. Other people are more private and need to establish trust before opening up about their past.


So, What Should You Say?

Choose words that send the message that you accept him/her without judgment. You don’t have to understand everything he has been through – being a good friend is enough. Let him know that you’re available to talk, and ask if he’s comfortable in social settings where alcohol is present. Be mindful of your friend’s former lifestyle and aware of everything he lost. More importantly, acknowledge his courage and dedication for owning his addiction. Following these simple guidelines will ensure that you and your friend have meaningful conversations about alcoholism and recovery. Remember that the best thing you can say is nothing at all. Extend an ear, and listen to your friend with support and sensitivity, and you won’t have to worry about choosing the right words at all. When you or your loved one is ready for the help they deserve, come to alcohol rehab in Louisville, where you can achieve the sobriety you always dreamed of.

About the Author


Landmark Recovery Staff

This post was written by a Landmark Recovery staff member. If you have any questions, please contact us at 888-448-0302.

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