Five Things Not to Say to Someone in Recovery

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

“You don’t get over an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use. If you don’t create a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will catch up with you again.”


Recovery can be viewed by many as a “sacred place”, which not everyone encounters, but so many people form many opinions. Recovery is a life-saving stage for those who have struggled with alcohol, drugs, and eating disorders. For many, recovery can be difficult, and therefore certain words and actions can either be uplifting or extremely dangerous. Many of us probably know at least one person who is in recovery from a substance use disorder. Some of us may not know what to say, maybe fearful of saying the wrong thing or avoid the subject altogether. It is important to be empathetic, educate yourself on addiction to alleviate the stigma, support your loved one, and be aware of some things NOT to say.

How bad were you when you were using drugs?

Addiction can land many individuals in a deep, dark, scary place. Therefore, it is important not to ask about their past associated with this time, as it may bring the individual back to this place. If your friend chooses to share his/her past, then that is something for them to decide, not for you to decide. Asking about a troubled past cannot only bring up negative emotions and unwanted memories, but it may also make your loved one feel as if you are passing judgment, wanting to gossip, or are trying to get details of a shocking story. If your loved one does decide to share about their past, it is important to listen, be empathetic, and not verbalize any opinion.

How many more meetings do you have until you are cured?

In the world of addiction and recovery, the individual is never “cured” as recovery is all about progress and not perfection. Relapses can still occur, regardless of the stage of recovery, cravings and urgings can always be present and dark emotions from the past can haunt the individual during unexpected times. Recovery never stops, and meetings are a way to connect like-minded people in recovery with one another. Meetings are a significant part of recovery that allows individuals to share their problems and experiences with individuals who understand, to feel less isolated. Asking an individual in recovery when they are cured or when they will “get better” or when their recovery ends are all inappropriate questions and, therefore, should be avoided.

Do you think you will be ever allowed to drink again?

In all cases, this answer is “no,” and this question should never be asked as it can bring up unwanted urges and cravings. Recovery is a lifelong process where individuals learn to adapt to a new lifestyle that does not include alcohol or drugs. Even if the individual feels healthy and comfortable in their recovery, going back to past habits is not an option.

I am sorry/I know how you feel 

Unless you have been in recovery first hand, apologizing or assuming you know how your loved one feels is inappropriate. Saying “sorry” can often imply that the individual is missing out on something. Instead of apologizing, offer words of praise or encouragement such as “that’s wonderful”. Recovery should be acknowledged and celebrated. Instead of trying to be empathetic by putting yourself in their shoes and saying “I know how you feel”, offer a listening ear, a helping hand, or an open heart.

Will you be our designated driver?

Using someone for their sobriety or putting them in an uncomfortable environment where people are drinking is not healthy, respectful, or safe. Of course, it is nice to have friends who are willing to drive sober, but these friends shouldn’t be in recovery. If you want to hang out with your loved one, offer activities such as golfing, watching a movie, going for a hike, or a swim, that does not involve alcohol.

AKUA Mind and Body treatment

AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service treatment program that offers a wide range of “east meets west” treatment modalities for many different populations struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. AKUA makes your recovery a priority. AKUA Mind and Body treats co-occurring disorders and works diligently with each client and their family to ensure that treatment is specifically tailored to their needs, and not just their disorder.

AKUA Mind and Body offers detoxification, intensive treatment programs, and outpatient treatment programs. AKUA Mind and Body uses a blend of holistic approaches combined with evidence-based treatment to help individuals who have been affected by substance use and mental health disorders recognize their underlying triggers and develop healthy coping skills. Regardless of where you are in your recovery process, AKUA Mind and Body can help.

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