You’re not always going to say the right thing. But you can try.
When someone you love is recovering from a substance use disorder, you want to do everything you can to make their journey easier. A few kind words of encouragement and affection will help your loved one understand that you’re there to help. Here are a few things you can say to communicate your support clearly and effectively.
How are you doing?
It’s such a simple question, but it will immediately let your loved one know that you are extending a hand in friendship. Whether they want to give you a cursory “I’m fine, thanks,” or if they really do want to discuss their emotional journey, just listen and meet them where they are.
Everyone needs help sometimes.
As a society, we tend to mythologize the rugged individualist. However, without a support network, addiction recovery is extremely difficult. You want your loved one to know that you aren’t judging and that you are willing to be there when needed.
Can I do anything to help?
Substance use disorders affect different people in different ways, so it’s difficult to anticipate a person’s unique recovery needs. Be as respectful and considerate as possible when engaging with your loved one, and don’t assume that you know what they need.
Put your recovery first.
Exiting the structured environment of inpatient recovery can be highly challenging, and it is extremely easy to become overwhelmed. If your loved one is worried about responsibilities outside of recovery, calmly remind them that putting recovery first gives them the best odds of success.
I’m proud of you.
Recovery is difficult. Staying sober is difficult. People going through substance use disorder treatment need positive reinforcement and confidence to successfully navigate the program and their everyday lives.
Do you want to hang out?
Social interactions can be challenging for people in recovery. Many people who struggle with substance use disorder relied upon drugs and alcohol to ease social anxieties, so they might find it difficult to relax in social situations. They might also have lost touch with the people they socialized with when using.
People in recovery need to reintroduce themselves to social interactions without substances. Go out to a movie. Stay at home and play video games. Work out together. Simply spending an afternoon or evening relaxing can help ease the burden of loneliness.
I love you.
Your loved one might be struggling with feelings of immense guilt over the way they behaved before they pursued sobriety. Let them know that they are worth loving.
Society isn’t always particularly kind to people with substance use disorders; many people regard the condition as a severe character flaw and not a legitimate mental health disorder. Before you attempt a conversation, be sure you’re familiar with the appropriate terminology surrounding substance use disorder. Once you understand addiction, you’ll be able to communicate compassionately and empathetically.
At The Raleigh House, we provide dedicated support to the family and friends of people with substance use disorders. In addition to counseling sessions and intervention support, we offer access to a family app through our alumni program. This resource gives family members the opportunity to communicate with other people in similar circumstances.
If you have a loved one who is battling substance use disorder, please contact our addiction professionals to discuss your options. We’re here to help.