Things to Avoid Saying to Recovering Alcoholics


When it comes to supporting and perhaps even living with a recovering alcoholic, knowing what to say and what not to say can be tricky to say the least. You of course have only the best intentions, but as it’s completely alien territory for you and everyone else, it’s almost impossible to avoid saying entirely the wrong thing from time to time.

As far as the experts at are concerned, it’s actually a pretty counterproductive idea to think too long, hard and intensively about everything you do and do not say. The reason being that in doing so, you will end up coming across as insincere, clearly sticking with scripted statements and make it obvious that you really aren’t saying what’s on your mind. Suffice to say, this usually doesn’t help anyone.

But at the same time, there will always be certain things which may appear to be helpful and supportive at the time, though have the potential to have the exact opposite effect. This will differ to an enormous extent in accordance with the individual in question and the situation they are facing, but in the majority of instances there are certain rules of thumb when it comes to counterproductive statements.


Here’s a quick look at a few examples to illustrate this:

1 – I Feel Really Sorry For You

On the surface, this sounds like you are showing genuine empathy and sympathy for the situation and expressing real thought and care. In reality however, what you are doing is opening something of a ‘pity party’ which is exactly the opposite of what the individual in question needs right now. The simple fact of the matter is that while it may be difficult to handle from time to time, alcoholics often respond far better to empowerment than pity and sympathy. Of course it is important to show that you care and have regard for how they’re feeling, but the very last thing you want is to give them any reason to fall into a spiral of self-pity. Suffice to say, this is one of the biggest rigors of relapse.

2 – You Just Need Willpower

While it’s true to say that willpower will always play a pivotal role in the treatment process, it is absolutely not the single silver bullet cure when it comes to alcohol addiction. The reason being that alcoholism has an extraordinary array of detrimental effects on both mental and physical health alike, which all the willpower in the world will not simply reverse overnight. As such, to suggest it is just a case of willpower is to largely confirm that you really have no idea what they are going through, which again can prove counterproductive.

3 – I Didn’t Think Your Drinking Problem Was Particularly Bad

Regardless of whether you are looking to humour the individual in question or these are in fact your genuine thoughts, they are the kinds you should really keep to yourself. The reason being that if they have accepted their alcohol problem, faced up to the consequences of their actions and decided to take affirmative action against them, the very last thing you want to do a is give them any impression they didn’t actually have a serious problem in the first place.

4 – Are You OK?  How Are You Feeling?  What Are You Thinking?

These are just bog standard examples, used to illustrate the point that asking too many questions on a constant basis really isn’t a good idea. Yes, there’s a lot to talk about and in some instances they may not be particularly keen to open up to you. Nevertheless, to constantly pester a recovering alcoholic with the Spanish inquisition is to trigger feelings of irritation, violation of privacy, being patronized by others and so on and so forth. Feel free to spark and encourage conversation, but don’t get carried away with the interrogation techniques.

5 – It Really Is Such A Horrible, Terrible Thing To Have To Go Through

Last but not least, it’s important to remember that there’s a very big difference between making light of a serious subject and looking for the positives in an otherwise dark cloud. You don’t need to pretend that everything that’s happening is fantastic, but you can at least focus on the positives ahead and the progress made so far. By contrast, if you spend most of your time focusing on the rather grim and unfortunate side of things, this will inherently be the side of things the individual in question focuses on.


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