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What Not to Say to an Addict: 3 Phrases to Avoid

A father and his adult son ride together in a golf cart.
Your loved one needs you, so take the time to figure out productive ways of talking about addiction and recovery.


When a loved one battles addiction, it can feel very personal. That’s especially true if you were lied to, stolen from or treated poorly.

At the same time, it’s frustrating because you know what you’d do if you were broke and lost your job because of drugs or alcohol. You’d stop using and find a new job and work hard. The answer seems so obvious.

But being addicted to drugs or alcohol is not as simple as that. Addiction changes the way the brain is wired, making it almost impossible to stop using on your own. At a certain point, many people just lose control.

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s take a look at some of the very worst things you could say to someone facing addiction.

”If You Loved Me You’d Stop”

This one is tough because, no matter what you may know intellectually, the heart says otherwise. How could someone so close to you—maybe even your spouse—cause you such agony?

It’s not your loved one doing this to you, it’s the addiction.

But as many times as you tell yourself that, it just doesn’t sink in.

That’s one reason why going to a support group for family and friends of those facing addiction can be so helpful. Hearing stories just like yours can drive home the message in a way that nothing else can.

”You’re Ruining My Life”

Drugs and alcohol are, at their core, an escape from stress and problems.

Trying to make your loved one feel guilty just piles more stress on. It also puts another brick in the wall between you because it shows that you don’t understand the whole picture of addiction.

Chances are, your loved one does not want to ruin your life or hurt you anymore than he or she wants to be addicted. Your loved one doesn’t feel great when he gets high or drunk anymore. At this point, it’s required just to feel normal.

Your family member or friend is in misery, too, and your accusation may make it feel like you don’t see that.

”Get Your Act Together”

The simple fact is that many people facing addiction simply cannot get their act together by themselves.

They may have co-occurring conditions like post traumatic stress disorder or depression that need to be treated in order for them to manage their addiction. If they’ve been using heavily for a long time (especially alcohol) it may not even be safe to detox without medical supervision.

We all hear stories of people who quit without any help. But that doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to do it—or that it is even a safe for everyone.

What To Say to a Drug Addict

You’ll want to be empathetic, kind and express unconditional love—without engaging in behavior that enables your loved one. That’s admittedly a tough balance to strike.

That’s yet another reason why a support group can be helpful. You’ll get to learn from other people’s mistakes—and their successes.

It’s also a good idea to find a treatment center that offers family therapy as part of its program. Addiction takes a toll on every relationship it touches. A good rehab will offer the opportunity to restore them.

About The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes addiction isn’t just a physical problem. Our master’s level trained therapists get to the root cause of addiction and, with your loved one, will develop a strategy to manage and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the treatment programs at The Raleigh House.

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