Top 10 Things Not to Say to Your Buddy in Recovery

By Brian Whitney 10/13/15

Number 7: I had a problem with booze/drugs too once, but I just stopped using, it wasn’t that hard.

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Top 10 Things Not to Say to Your Buddy in Recovery
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So it seems that you have a few friends that are in recovery in your life. That is no surprise, most people do. You aren’t in recovery, of course. You never had those sorts of problems. But still, you want to be supportive. You want to let the person in recovery know that you understand what he went through. You want to say just the right thing. You are a sensitive type of person, you don’t judge. 

I don’t recommend it, but go ahead if you want. Give it a shot. But if you want to talk to your buddy in recovery about their issues here are 10 things that you shouldn’t say. Ever.

1. It is hard to imagine you being an addict. How bad were you when you were using?

This one should never be asked under any circumstance. It is probable that your friend’s addiction brought him to some dark places, but seriously, why do you want to know? And even if you do want to know, why would you ask? Is it because you care in a genuine way, or do you want to just gossip and pass judgment?

If your buddy wants you to know about all the crazy things he did when he was using, he would have already told you. Your friend in recovery’s role is not to tell you shocking stories about his depravity to entertain you all night.

2. I can relate to being addicted to things. All of us are addicts in some way; I am totally addicted to working out.

Really? That is so awesome. Then you and your buddy in recovery must have a lot in common. Because you spending two hours on the rowing machine at Anytime Fitness, cost you your job, marriage, ruined your finances and put your health at risk, right? 

Oh it didn’t? Then maybe you aren’t an addict quite as much as you thought. 

3. Man, I remember you used to go out all the time. Do you ever get bored now that you don’t party anymore?

Well, the truth is, your friend in recovery isn’t bored. His life when he was using was filled with stress, drama, and misery of all sorts. He might have often woken up in the morning feeling like death, not remembering what he did the night before. He might have had legal problems; he might have been homeless for a period of time. He might have ruined relationships with people that he loved with his addiction. Maybe he lived his life in fear that people would find out about his addiction and judge him for it.

Now, your friend is “relaxed” not “bored.” What your friend in recovery feels now may be a variety of things, but it is very unlikely that “bored” is one of them.

4. How long have you been clean now? Do you think you can ever drink/use again? Maybe just have one once in awhile?

Chances are your buddy in recovery has tried this before. He quit for a bit and then had just one. Then that one became three, and that three turned into eight, and then eight turned into more. I mean who knows? Maybe down the road things will change. But the last thing your friend in recovery needs to hear from you is how it might be possible for him to have just one beer and be able to function normally.

Because it isn’t.

5. You were really getting into some bad stuff. Why did you start using that in the first place?

This one is really irritating. Maybe it was purely because your buddy liked to feel drunk or high. But it probably had more to do with something else. Maybe things that your friend has been fighting his entire life, maybe it is anxiety, or some sort of trauma he had. Maybe booze, drugs and addictive behavior is how he dealt with the pain.

Is this really the type of thing you want to ask someone in casual conversation?

6. All of the girls you ever met before, you met at bars or parties. How are you going to meet someone to hang out with now?

This is true. Your friend in recovery did meet all of his prior girlfriends at bars or parties. He was looking for women who lived like he did. Who didn’t care about being healthy, who thought of nothing but more booze, more drugs, more sex. He lied to most of those people because he thought if he let them know how he really felt about himself then they wouldn’t like him. None of those relationships worked out for him, and most of them were destructive.

Maybe he needs to spend some time by himself and get healthy. Maybe he is going to try and meet some women to hang out with that are sober, or at least don’t spend all their time at bars or parties. Either way, don’t ask this question. Whatever path he is on is none of your business.

7. I had a problem with booze/drugs too once, but I just stopped using, it wasn’t that hard.

This is always a classic. While pretending to be understanding of your buddy's issues, you really are just dissing him, saying he has no willpower, or no self-control.

Your buddy had a problem with booze and drugs and he couldn’t just stop. You saying that you could, whether true or not, is just hurtful and inconsiderate. Since I doubt that your goal is to be hurtful and inconsiderate don’t say this, or anything like it. 

8. Seriously? You were an addict? I never would have guessed, you don't look like an addict at all.

Oh really? You think? What does an addict look like anyway? Does it look like your mailman? The guy that you just bought your new car from? Maybe it looks like your sociology professor in college?

The fact that you think you can tell who is, or isn’t, an addict by looking at them is not only laughable, but also shows you to be someone who has an antiquated thought process around addiction and class structures. Addiction is everywhere.

9. So what was your scene all about? How much were you drinking? What kind of drugs were you using?

Your addict friend understands, you don’t mean any harm, you are just curious. But the reality of it is how much booze was drunk, or how many bags of heroin someone shot into their arm doesn’t really mean a whole lot at this point in time.

The details are not the issue, nor are they any of your business. It doesn’t matter whether your friend was drinking three glasses of wine a day, or two bottles of vodka a day. Your friend is in recovery now, and that is all that matters as far as you are concerned.

10.  Hey man, I know you don’t drink, but is it okay if I drink around you?

Yes. It is totally and completely okay if you have a drink around your friend. In fact, you drinking does not affect your friend's recovery at all. If he is in a place that serves alcohol, he has already decided that he can handle being in a place that serves alcohol. The reality of the situation is, the more you drink, the more you act like an idiot, and the less likely it is that your friend will want a drink himself.

Just do what you want to do, and let your friend in recovery do the same. If he didn’t want to be around you, he wouldn’t be. You aren’t doing him any favors.

So what do you say to someone in recovery? Nothing. Say nothing at all.

If your friend wants to talk to you about his experiences and struggles, then he will. If he doesn’t, then just leave him alone and just treat like he is like anyone else. Because he is.

Brian Whitney is a pseudonym for an author and ghostwriter, his book Raping the Gods became available in the spring of 2015. He last wrote about reasons to go to rehab and about studies that porn addiction does not exist.

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Brian Whitney has been a prisoner advocate, a landscaper, and a homeless outreach worker. He has written or coauthored numerous books in addition to writing for AlterNetTheFixPacific Standard MagazinePaste Magazine, and many other publications. He has appeared or been featured in Inside Edition, Fox News, People.com, Cracked.com, True Murder, Savage Love and True Crime Garage. He is appearing at CrimeCon in 2019. You can find Brian on Facebook or at Brianwhitneyauthor.com.

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