6 Things to Never Say to a Recovering Alcoholic


Sober Recovery Expert Author

If you have a loved one in your life recovering from alcoholism, you’re probably wondering how you can best support him or her in sobriety. After all, you were worried sick before they got sober. Now, as they’re taking their recovery day-by-day, you want to be there in a way that will foster growth instead of frustration or anger.

The road to recovery is especially difficult in the beginning and what you say and how you say it can influence your loved one’s progress, whether you realize it or not. Here are 6 counterproductive phrases that you should never say to a recovering alcoholic.

1. “Wow! Your willpower is amazing, but it must be so hard!”

Understand that maintaining sobriety goes beyond sheer willpower. Instead of referring to how difficult the situation is, encourage your loved one to continue to be on guard against specific triggers. Perhaps you can remind them to keep staying away from their old drinking pals, their favorite bars or other things that tempt them to drink. After all, avoiding triggers is less challenging than having to say no to alcohol point blank.

2. “Man, I feel so bad you have to go through this.”

Those in recovery are not interested in throwing a pity party. Instead of giving sympathy, empower your loved one by letting him or her know how proud you are and how much you believe in his or her progress.

3. “How’s it going? Have you felt like drinking lately? Have you been tempted? Do you feel any triggers today?”

No recovering alcoholic wants to be bombarded with a bunch of questions regarding sobriety. Simply be a friend and share life together. If your loved one is in a foul mood, you can ask what’s wrong but don’t assume that every bad mood leads to thoughts of drinking.

4. “You weren’t a bad alcoholic.”

Alcoholism is a cunning disease so insinuating that your loved one was a “good” alcoholic will not do him or her any good. This statement can easily give your loved one an illusion that he or she is not as “bad” as other alcoholics and may be giving him or her more leeway to engage in harmful activity.

5. “I’m here for you to beat this horrible disease—no matter what!”

This kind of talk gives the impression that the recovery road will be dark and grim, which doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. You certainly can be there to share life with your loved one, but try instead to emphasize the happy times you will have together in a life that free of alcohol. Smile and have some fun with them because a beautiful life lies on the other side of alcoholism.

6. “Do you ever think you can be a social drinker?”

Don’t let yourself be fooled. Alcoholism is a disease without a cure and a recovering alcoholic is unable to be a social drinker. Maybe you are able to drink socially, but the situation is different for your loved one in recovery. It is best to refrain from bringing this up.

Some well-meaning remarks can actually offend or even trigger a recovering alcoholic. Instead, encourage those in recovery by avoiding these 6 counterproductive lines.

As you continue to be there for your loved one in recovery, keep these tips in mind. But don’t be too hard on yourself, either. If you happen to accidentally offend or trigger your loved one, simply apologize and learn from the incident. It’s remarkable how far a sincere apology can go.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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