When your friend in recovery is going through addiction therapy, there’s no doubt your heartaches with a desire to help—to ease burdens, soothe the mind and comfort the soul.
And in your best of intentions, you’re probably looking for just the right words to say. So let’s talk for a moment about how the words you choose might make your friend or family member feel bolstered and ready to take on another day of recovery—and how one key phrase may make them feel more defeated and alone.
Talking with a Friend in Recovery? Here’s the Biggest Mistake You Can Make
Human nature compels us to relate with one another. That’s why we’re quick to say, “I’ve been where you are now, and it’s going to be okay!” After all, if you understand from past experience what another person is currently going through, camaraderie offers great comfort.
But if you don’t actually know what it’s like? Attempts at relating can feel a bit dry.
That’s why you never want to say, “Hey, we’re all recovering from something.” to your friend in recovery. Because, oh man, are we really?
If you’re a parent, you might better grasp the insult of this phrase by thinking back on that person (or persons, in my case) who looked in your crazed just-had-my-first-baby-eyes and said, with a smile, “Oh, that’s just like when we brought our puppy home!”
I wanted to smack ‘em.
And I imagine our friends in recovery feel much the same way. How could any of us claim to be “recovering from something” when addiction is such a loaded and layered challenge? One we can’t possibly understand unless we’ve walked the same path.
And even worse? These words tend to communicate: “We’re all recovering from something, and yet we didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol to cope like you did. There must be something extra wrong with you.”
I imagine that’s the last thing you want your friend or loved one to hear. So let’s focus on three phrases that are less hurtful and way more helpful in the long run. After all, our job to our friends in recovery isn’t to relate but to support.
3 Things to Say to Support Your Friends in Recovery
One of the best ways you can show support to your friends in recovery is to validate their emotions. From the outside looking in, it can be easy to minimize the struggles of addiction as well as the difficult work required to reach sobriety.
You’ll provide great comfort to your loved ones by simply acknowledging their reality—as they see it—and showing through both your words and actions that you love them and believe in their ability to reach the other side.
Here are three key phrases to try:
“I love you. There’s nothing you can do to change that fact.”
Your friend in recovery needs to know that your feelings aren’t conditional based on their behavior. Boundaries are important, sure. But you can love regardless.
“What’s been the best part of your recovery journey so far? The most challenging?”
These questions help you get a true sense of what your loved one is going through. If you listen with the intent to understand, you might just find yourself growing in compassion as well.
“I’ll be there on (specific day) to help with (specific task).
There’s nothing quite like meeting a need that wasn’t requested of you. You might show up to play with the kids, do dishes or go for a walk together after a weekly meeting.
Remember: you don’t have to relate to your friend in recovery. You simply need to show support. We’re here to help too. Give us a call at 844.767.9404.
Written by Stephanie Thomas, contributing writer with Promises Behavioral Health