Someone you love is battling a drug or alcohol addiction, and you want to be supportive. You’ve heard other friends and family members offering gentle words of encouragement, but so far the person isn’t making much progress in their recovery. So you begin to wonder if a little “tough love” is in order. As we tell the family and friends of the people we work with at our Sacramento residential treatment center, that’s a “tool” you need to be very careful with.
Wielding Words as Weapons
While there may be certain instances when a more firm approach to encouragement is in order, or certain people who respond better to tough love, more often than not words that have an edge to them are not helpful for someone who is trying to get some traction in their recovery. Here are some things you should think twice (or more!) before saying:
“I know somebody who’s even worse off than you.”
The subtext here is “… so you should have no problem beating this thing.” However, the truth is it’s very much a problem to beat this thing or your loved one would have done it long ago. Comparing their situation to someone else’s in a negative way is unfair and unhelpful.
“It doesn’t seem like you’re trying very hard.”
While the behaviors associated with addiction are visible, the addiction itself is a mental disorder that can’t be seen. Even as a person with an addiction is using the substance they are addicted to, they may be trying desperately in their head to fight their urges.
“Do you know all the pain you’ve caused?”
Yes, they know. In fact, in all likelihood, nobody knows better than they do. Generally speaking, people with addictions don’t want to hurt people any more than people without addictions. Piling more guilt on top of the guilt they are already feeling is in no way a motivator. In fact, it is mentally and emotionally draining and therefore very counterproductive.
“When will you be fully recovered?”
There is no defined timeline for recovery. It may take weeks, months, or years depending on the myriad of factors that may be impacting a particular person. And of course, it’s likely the person hears the question more as, “Why aren’t you recovered already?”
Think Before You Speak
If you care about someone who is battling an addiction, you can express that caring by choosing your words carefully. At our drug treatment center in Sacramento, we encourage family and friends to be as patient and understanding as they can possibly be. Recovery is a process and it takes time. But, of course, it’s so worth it. Got questions about our programs? Give us a call.