What to Ask (and Not to Ask) Your Loved One in Recovery
Millions of Americans are affected by addiction every year; addiction is a tricky disease, and it doesn’t discriminate, causing heartbreak and hurt for so many families and friends. It’s a fact of life that most of us will encounter addiction at some point, whether it’s our family or friend. This is a difficult journey to navigate for everyone involved, and it’s important to go into such a challenge with an open mind and willingness to listen and love.
If you are facing this situation, you’ll want to know how to best talk to a recovering addict. There are some things you should say and ask, while there are some questions you should avoid bringing up. Although this can be a tricky time for everyone, as emotions—such as stress, frustration and disappointment run high—it’s important to do your best to communicate in a healthy and open way, which will benefit both parties.
If you’re struggling with this scenario and you’re not sure where to start, take a look at some of these tips and suggestions on how to successfully communicate with an addict in recovery.
ABTRS wants to help you and your addicted loved one communicate better as your relationship becomes stronger and healthier.
What can you ask and not to ask your addicted loved one while they are in recovery without causing a relapse?
What Addicts in Recovery Really Need: Positive Attitudes & Support Group Guidance
It’s absolutely essential to rely on positive thoughts and encouragement when talking to those who have faced drug addiction. It’s crucial that loved ones know what to ask and what not to talk about because this knowledge will empower them to serve as the best possible support system. If you don’t know how to talk to someone about their drug addiction, then you may find yourself at a loss for words or saying the wrong thing.
ABTRS understands your worry and wants to help you through this.
In order to succeed in sobriety and achieve a better, happier and healthier lifestyle, a recovering addict will need a lot of resources, not only at their rehabilitation center but also within their group of family and friends. This is especially true for those who are parents or in a romantic relationship.
Oftentimes, partners and spouses have to cope with intense feelings of worry, distrust, anxiety and anger while the recovering patients are more likely to be striving for happiness and hope. This means that family and friends need to work through their feelings before talking or visiting their loved one because they need a pathway for clear communication.
With thoughtful support and careful conversations, recovering addicts can unlock the tools they need to remain dedicated and determined to get better and eliminate their drug and alcohol-related demons for good. In many cases, family and friends of addicts can benefit greatly from participating in support groups, where they can learn more about the guidelines for safe and healthy communication during this time, as well as get the chance to talk openly about what’s on their minds.
What Can You Ask Your Addicted Loved One About Their Recovery from Drugs & Alcohol?
One thing to remember is that you may not be able to have the same kind of conversations that you had when your loved one wasn’t in rehab. Instead, when it comes to speaking to this person, make sure you remember to be sensitive and straightforward.
Comfortable Topics that are Trigger Free: One of the top suggestions for those wondering how to talk to a drug addict is to ask the recovering person what they feel comfortable about, and what topics they would rather avoid. Some people may feel better if they address their situation head-on, while others may prefer to talk about other things and just enjoy their time with family and friends.
During your loved one’s recovery, It’s a good idea to ask questions such as “How are you feeling?” and “What do you need?” The key is having honest and healthy conversations and letting loved ones know that they can come to you for support and guidance.
It’s perfectly fine to ask for suggestions as to how you can best help. Be upfront about the fact that you’re going to be there for the long run, and you will be by their side as they strive to get better. It’s beneficial if you set up boundaries and expectations for communication and contact.
Stand by Your Word & Stick to Your Boundaries: If you promise to be available 24/7 for your loved one, then you should stand by your words. If you don’t feel like that’s possible, then set up some other expectations instead, such as that you’ll visit once a week or call three times a week. Do your best to stick to this schedule so you can provide some stability to your loved one during this difficult time.
Providing Constructive Feedback: Other ideas to keep in mind is that you can ask for permission to provide feedback on the recovery process. Once you have the go-ahead, you can let your loved one know how proud you are of them and what differences you’re noticing in their behavior and health.
This subtle yet meaningful encouragement can make a huge difference and give people the motivation and momentum to continue with the recovery process and stick to their sobriety. As part of this new chapter, you should also provide supportive and constructive suggestions and comments about room for improvement, so you can help the person achieve more and stay on the right track to a better future.
Let Them be in Control of Their Journey in Recovery: Also, you should remind the person that they are in control of their journey and their destiny. You can be there to help them as much as you can and offer that much-needed and appreciated love and guidance, but your loved one needs to make the right choices to continue recovering and truly take care of themselves.
What Does Their Support System Look Like: Talk to them about their other support systems and resources, such as counselors, life coaches and doctors. It’s great to give these people a chance to speak openly about their experience, and how they’re coping with all of life’s changes. Make sure you bring up healthy choices and lifestyles, such as getting enough sleep at night, eating a balanced diet and participating in safe and social activities that promote improved mental and emotional health.
Avoiding Topics that Cause Relapse: What Not to Ask Your Recovering Addict
You want to keep your conversations with a recovering loved one in a respectful, caring and productive light. That means there are some things you shouldn’t say in order to maintain a good relationship and support, rather than hinder, their recovery journey.
It’s not necessarily natural to know exactly how to talk to an addict, but if you want to be close to your loved one and continue to help them throughout their recovery, then you’ll need to watch what you say and focus on positivity, not negativity.
Avoid Details About Active Addiction: Rather than asking about the details of their drug addiction, ask questions about their other interests and passions. It’s important to remember that drug or alcohol dependence doesn’t make up an entire person, and there’s much more to every individual than just addiction. That’s why, rather than asking them about where they got the drugs and who they did them with, you should bring up more promising areas such as sports they like, subjects they enjoy studying or pastimes they participate in. Addiction should not be what defines them as an individual, and you should be careful to ask questions and bring up topics that reflect such a belief.
Traumatic or Shocking Experiences: Another talking point to stay away from is your surprise or shock they suffer from addiction. Every newfound sober person is extremely susceptible to triggers, and hearing something like “You don’t look or seem like an addict,” isn’t helpful.
Everybody has a different experience, and addiction doesn’t discriminate based on race, gender or socioeconomic status. Even the most put-together, professional and successful people can fall into the trap of drug and alcohol abuse and saying statements like this just promotes ignorance and misunderstandings rather than support and encouragement.
Similarly, try to shy away from extremely personal and difficult topics like overdoses, moments of clarity and hitting rock bottom. When a former addict is trying to move forward and put their addiction behind them, the last thing they need is to be reminded of their darkest days. Such a question may bring up detrimental feelings surrounding spirituality, self-awareness and shame, which could really set your loved one back rather than put them forward in the recovering process.
Respecting Their Boundaries to Remain Abstinent: In addition, asking questions about one’s ability to still drink alcohol is also a no-go area. Addiction can easily span multiple substances, and just because an individual may have become dependent on heroin or painkillers, doesn’t mean they won’t have an adverse reaction or become addicted to alcohol. Using alcohol is not the right kind of topic to be talking about with a former drug addict.
Educate yourself About Addiction as a Disease Before You Ask: Lastly, it’s in the best interests of you and your loved one to avoid asking a question like “How do you know you’re an alcoholic/addict?” While you may be curious, this isn’t a good time to be asking such questions. Not only will you seem ignorant, but it may also seem like you’re challenging the person’s self-judgment.
Instead, you should try to educate yourself about the recovery process and the multi-faceted disease that is addiction. This way, you’ll be able to make a big difference in your loved one’s recovery process, and your relationship with them will reap the benefits.
Make your marriage, partnership, friendship or familial bond a priority by doing your best to understand the addiction journey and help your loved one any way you can, including through positive communication. You’ll be amazed at the difference this will make!