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A modern, community-based approach to addiction treatment for Men and Women in Charleston, SC

Psychologically Damaging Things You Can Say to Someone in Recovery

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People in recovery shouldn’t be treated differently than anyone else. That is to say, as long as we use the same common sense and compassion for everyone, there should be no issue in how we treat people in recovery. This includes picking up social cues and being aware enough to assess each situation based on its specifics. For example, offering someone a drink at a party is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. However, offering someone a drink, who we know is in recovery is an incredibly disrespectful thing to do. Our social choices should depend on the situation and the feelings of everyone involved, including the feelings of someone in recovery.

Navigating the Dynamics of Someone in Recovery

There is a big difference between doing something that could potentially be harmful to someone who we know is in recovery and someone who has a recovery status that we are unaware of. For example, we can innocently offer a drink to someone who is in recovery. However, once we become aware, we should have some social sense and be more conscious.

Of course, it can also be awkward to be around someone who we used to drink with who is now sober. That’s okay. We’re not bad people for being unsure about how to navigate new circumstances. However, if this is the case, it is okay to ask the person if there is anything they want to be upfront about with their recovery. There is a good chance they are also getting used to their new way of life. Many appreciate that someone cares enough to inquire about their feelings and preferences.

Remembering Someone in Recovery May Be Emotionally Raw

Of course, some people are very uncomfortable when they are first getting sober. This can be especially true if they have just left the treatment center, where they are more shielded from potentially triggering situations and interactions.

Sometimes, people in recovery will take offense to an innocent social slip, such as asking them what they like to drink. If this happens, it is okay to cut them a little slack because they are adjusting to their new life of sobriety. However, it is also okay to step away if they don’t want to accept the apology for the mistake. Walking away can save both party’s feelings and prevent a more triggering set of events from continuing in motion.

Avoiding the Stereotypes of Stigma

Then there are some stigmas regarding addiction that many people may not even know are stigmas. So, they, too, should be cut some slack and simply explained why what they said or did is harmful. Someone rarely aims to hurt someone’s feelings or their sobriety on purpose. We must remember that we are all learning. Whether or not we are willing to grow from what we learned matters.

Some stigmas lie in the words we use. Some people are unaware that some commonly used terms are offensive to people in recovery. They can even cause literal harm. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Studies show that terms like ‘junkie’ and ‘addict’ feed negative biases and dehumanize people. Research shows that language can even sway clinicians’ attitudes. In one study, clinicians rated a person described as a ‘substance abuser’ as more worthy of blame and punishment than someone described as ‘having a substance use disorder.’” Stigmas can also live in psychologically damaging phrases that we use.

Psychologically Damaging Phrases You Can Say to Someone in Recovery

It is okay to ask someone about their recovery. However, the first question that should be asked is, “May I ask you about your recovery?” Most likely, they will be fine with it. In other cases, they will want to avoid the subject. Either way, we know in which direction we must proceed.

Some psychologically damaging phrases include, “How can you say you’ll never drink or use again?” This can be triggering because it can lead someone to question their choices. Also, when asking questions, we should realize our motives or if a question even makes sense. What are we going to gain from the previous question? Nothing? Then why ask it at all?

Other phrases that could be psychologically damaging include asking questions about “how bad” their active addiction was, if they ever did anything they regretted, why they can’t just have one, and whether they miss drinking or using. These could all be triggering and relapse-inducing and thus should be avoided. Again, isn’t there better stuff to talk about anyway?

The Importance of Long-Term Success at Lantana Recovery

At Lantana Recovery, we believe in long-term recovery over short-term “fixes.” This includes creating a recovery plan that can withstand situations and questions that may be triggering.

Life is a journey, not a destination. The same can be said about recovery. However, what we learn differently about the journey of recovery is that we don’t have to take it alone, which is way more fulfilling and fun.

There are certain phrases, questions, and words to avoid when speaking to someone in recovery. While, yes, people in recovery are responsible for their actions and reactions, it is still best to avoid any triggering language. Phrases like “You mean you’re never going to drink again?” “Is 12-Step recovery a cult?” and “Do you miss it?” can be very psychologically damaging to someone who is in recovery. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues related to addiction or mental illness, we can help. For more information about avoiding stigma and triggering and psychologically damaging language, please reach out to Lantana Recovery today at (866) 997-2870.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.