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The 10 Worst Things You Can Say to Someone in Recovery

The 10 Worst Things You Can Say to Someone in Recovery

So it seems that you have a few friends that are in recovery in your life. That is no surprise, most people do. You aren’t in recovery, of course. You never had those sorts of problems. But still, you want to be supportive. You want to let the person in recovery know that you understand what he went through. You want to say just the right thing. You are a sensitive type of person, you don’t judge.

I don’t recommend it, but go ahead if you want. Give it a shot. But if you want to talk to your buddy in recovery about their issues here are 10 things that you shouldn’t say. Ever.

1. It is hard to imagine you being an addict. How bad were you when you were using?

This one should never be asked under any circumstance. It is probable that your friend’s addiction brought him to some dark places, but seriously, why do you want to know? And even if you do want to know, why would you ask? Is it because you care in a genuine way, or do you want to just gossip and pass judgment?

If your buddy wants you to know about all the crazy things he did when he was using, he would have already told you. Your friend in recovery’s role is not to tell you shocking stories about his depravity to entertain you all night.

2. I can relate to being addicted to things. All of us are addicts in some way; I am totally addicted to working out.

Really? That is so awesome. Then you and your buddy in recovery must have a lot in common. Because you spending two hours on the rowing machine at Anytime Fitness, cost you your job, marriage, ruined your finances and put your health at risk, right?

Oh it didn’t? Then maybe you aren’t an addict quite as much as you thought.

3. Man, I remember you used to go out all the time. Do you ever get bored now that you don’t party anymore?

Well, the truth is, your friend in recovery isn’t bored. His life when he was using was filled with stress, drama, and misery of all sorts. He might have often woken up in the morning feeling like death, not remembering what he did the night before. He might have had legal problems; he might have been homeless for a period of time. He might have ruined relationships with people that he loved with his addiction. Maybe he lived his life in fear that people would find out about his addiction and judge him for it.

Now, your friend is “relaxed” not “bored.” What your friend in recovery feels now may be a variety of things, but it is very unlikely that “bored” is one of them.

4. How long have you been clean now? Do you think you can ever drink/use again? Maybe just have one once in awhile?

Chances are your buddy in recovery has tried this before. He quit for a bit and then had just one. Then that one became three, and that three turned into eight, and then eight turned into more. I mean who knows? Maybe down the road things will change. But the last thing your friend in recovery needs to hear from you is how it might be possible for him to have just one beer and be able to function normally.

Because it isn’t.

5. You were really getting into some bad stuff. Why did you start using that in the first place?

This one is really irritating. Maybe it was purely because your buddy liked to feel drunk or high. But it probably had more to do with something else. Maybe things that your friend has been fighting his entire life, maybe it is anxiety, or some sort of trauma he had. Maybe booze, drugs and addictive behavior is how he dealt with the pain.

Is this really the type of thing you want to ask someone in casual conversation?

Want more? Check out the rest of the original feature article, Top 10 Things Not to Say to Your Buddy in Recovery, over at The Fix.

The 10 Worst Things You Can Say to Someone in Recovery

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). The 10 Worst Things You Can Say to Someone in Recovery. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 30 Oct 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.