If someone has confided in you about their problems with drugs or alcohol, it’s your responsibility to make sure you don’t add to their burden by saying the wrong thing. Here are 10 questions and comments that should never pass your lips while speaking to an addict.
1: “You Could Stop If You Really Wanted To”
If quitting is so easy, why do millions struggle with it every year? Facing one’s addiction takes courage, commitment and a tremendous amount of inner strength. You shouldn’t belittle their efforts by implying that it’s a walk through the park if they just care enough.
2: “I’ll Do This If You Do That”
Addiction isn’t overcome through bargaining. You may think it’s harmless, just a little incentive to keep them on the wagon, but you’re actually creating a feedback loop that’s destined to fail. People need to find personal, self-motivating reasons to get clean, not chase after the carrot you’re dangling from a stick.
3: “You’re Breaking Mom’s Heart”
There isn’t a person in the world who snorts cocaine while thinking “Here’s to you, mom!” Guilt tripping an addict serves no purpose but to make you feel self-righteous while they become defensive or depressed.
4: “You Should Join A Program”
Rehab isn’t the only road to sobriety. Many addicts are able to kick the habit through things like private therapy and local support groups. Don’t assume you know what’s best for them if they’re still figuring out what they’re willing to try.
5: “Were You Abused/Molested/Dumped?”
If you, personally, have never dealt with drug or alcohol addition, you might assume that it’s the product of an abusive childhood or bad breakup. Not only is this a harmful stereotype, but it’s a tactless one, too. Someone else’s addiction doesn’t give you license to ask about their innermost secrets.
6: “Why Are You Doing This To Me?”
They aren’t doing drugs just to make you angry. They’re doing them for a whole host of mental, emotional and psychological reasons that existed before you and will exist even if you leave.
7: “But A Beer’s Okay, Right?”
Never offer a recovering addict any kind of alcohol, opiates, painkillers, et cetera. Once they know that you have it, that their vice is within reach, it’ll drive them crazy with temptation, even if it isn’t their usual brand of candy. It’s important to avoid all gateway substances when trying to remain clean and drug-free.
8: “What Day Are You On?”
Again, this is a highly personal question better left unasked. They may be embarrassed that their number isn’t higher, or ashamed that they’ve recently started over, or discouraged that they’ve been sober for awhile but they’re still struggling. If they want you to know how many days they have under their belt, they’ll tell you.
9: “Do You Really Think You’ll Do It This Time?”
They have enough doubts on their plate without you serving another helping. Even if they’ve relapsed several times, it only takes one to stick. Just look at Stone Hawks CEO Per Wicktrom: He tumbled down the rabbit hole at the tender age of 13, becoming a long-term addict with a serious problem, but one day he finally steeled himself and said “enough is enough.” He currently runs one of the most successful rehab facilities in Michigan.
10: “This Is Your Brain On Meth”
They’ve heard it. No, really. They’ve heard it. It wasn’t even funny the first time.