Although your loved one has completed their programme of treatment it doesn’t mean (as some people think) that ‘they are ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’. They will have learned a lot on their programme and will have gained what we call tools, which will help them with their new life in recovery but they will need to work hard to maintain this.
We recognise that it is also not easy for those who love and care about the person who has completed our programme and in trying to help, they can sometimes end up saying the wrong thing. So, we have put together some questions/statements to be avoided;
“When can you stop going to meetings?”
Being in recovery is a life-long process, a way of life. Instead of focusing on an end date or a ‘cure’ it is best to offer non-judgmental support and focus on the positive. Reminding those in recovery that they have things to be thankful about in their life can help cultivate gratitude and also gently remind them that you support the things they are doing to remain healthy.
“I know how you feel.”
Unless you have dealt with addiction personally, you cannot understand how people in recovery feel.
However, you don’t need to be an alcoholic or an addict to offer support or make a difference in someone’s recovery. This could be anything from accompanying them to meetings, helping them tell friends and family about their recovery, checking in on them regularly or making plans together.
“I didn’t think you had a problem” or “I had no idea!”
People with addiction are very good at hiding it and saying that you had no idea makes it about you instead of focusing on them. It requires strength and bravery to tell people about being an addict so focus on that with affirming statements, e.g. “I am proud of you.”. It is important to reinforce how difficult it is to stay sober and it can make people in recovery stop and think that the effort they are making is worthwhile.
“Can’t you have just one?”
If they have trusted you enough to tell you about their recovery, take their word for it. People who can limit themselves to just one drink or just one beer don’t usually end up needing to be sober. Many people in recovery struggle with feelings of shame and low self-esteem so help remind them of the big picture, with statements like “You deserve to be happy, healthy and to have a full life.”
“So you can never get high or drink again?”
This question can be anxiety-provoking for anyone. Recovery is often not about just the drinking or using; someone who is trying to be sober is often trying to work out deeper emotional issues and is attempting to undo years of habitual behaviour. When you reduce recovery to just abstinence, it simplifies what is really a much more complex issue. So the more often you can tell people that they are strong and that they can get through this day to day, the better off they will be.
“Joe’s in recovery too!”
Talking to someone in recovery should always come with the caveat that it’s usually a private thing – although one person might be fine telling you his or her detailed story of addiction, others may not, so always assume that recovery is very personal and private and should not be shared.
There are support groups for those family and friends who have a loved one in recovery and in the first instance, if you have any questions, we recommend contacting your local Al-Anon group for further help and information.