What You Should Never Say To An Alcoholic

Posted by Care Addiction Center on February 24th, 2022

When your loved one struggles with alcoholism, it can be difficult to figure out how to approach them. Words we use to encourage, advise, or warn can sometimes be perceived as uncaring or offensive. These tips will help you know what NOT to say to an alcoholic.

Recognizing Alcohol Use Disorder

It can be stressful and uncertain to live with someone who has an addiction. How will you know if the frustration, stress, or uncertainty stems from an addiction? Signs a loved one may have an addiction:

  • Has your loved one become a little more secretive?
  • Have you seen a loss of interest in pleasurable hobbies?
  • Has money gone missing or do you see unexplainable expenses?
  • Do you see changes in their weight? Are they getting really thin?
  • Are you noticing outbursts, like anger?
  • Do you see changes in their patterns? Are there things they used to enjoy doing before and now don’t? For example, if your loved one used to enjoy rock climbing - but now doesn’t enjoy it, or doesn’t seem interested. Or maybe they enjoyed cooking, but now they are not doing anything in the kitchen.

Someone who exhibits even two of these symptoms may be suffering from an alcohol problem.

What NOT To Say To An Alcoholic

In order to talk with a loved one in a respectful, considerate, and productive way, you should avoid statements or questions like these: “That’s not the right way to deal with your problems.”

    Alcoholics struggle to seek help because they fear judgment. As a result, they are hesitant to admit they have a problem. It is important to be compassionate and caring, as it makes the alcoholic feel more comfortable.

“I know how you feel.”

    If you do not have a drinking problem, you cannot truly understand how the other person feels. There is nothing wrong with empathy. Just make sure you don\'t imply that your problems are the same or equal.

“I give up.”

    No one wants to hear that they are hopeless or that you have given up on them. The most difficult part of caring for someone suffering from alcohol addiction is supporting them. If it\'s excessively damaging, gently tell them that their drinking is hurting you and that you\'re willing to help them find addiction treatment.

“Why did you start drinking?”

    The answer to this question can be deeply personal. Most people need to establish trust before disclosing embarrassing details about their past. You should ask about their other interests and passions instead of asking about their addiction.

“Why don’t you just quit?”

    show it is not as simple as just stopping; the changes to brain chemistry after months or years of substance abuse cannot be reversed overnight. For people with alcohol addictions, detox may be fatal if they stop cold-turkey.

What NOT To Say To A Loved One In Recovery

It may be difficult to know what to say to someone who is an alcoholic, but it may also be the case that your loved one is in recovery and you have trouble conversing with them. Following are some things to avoid saying to someone in recovery. “Do you miss drinking?”

    Obviously, your loved one misses drinking since they are an alcoholic. However, what they don\'t miss is the disruption and chaos that comes along with drinking alcohol. They have recovered to the point where the benefits of sobriety far outweigh the temporary pleasure of drinking.

“Do you remember when ___?”

    An alcoholic does not want to be reminded of things that happened while they were drunk. These memories can be embarrassing and even cause feelings of shame, especially for someone recovering from alcoholism.

“Do you mind if I have a drink?”

    Sobriety does not mean your loved one is immune to temptation. If you want to support your loved one in their recovery, you shouldn\'t suggest or influence their decision to drink.

“How do you know you’re an alcoholic?”

    While you may be curious, asking questions like these can come across as an attempt to undermine the person\'s self-esteem. People don\'t want their feelings and important decisions discredited, so it is best to leave your shock or surprise about their addiction out of the conversation. As an alternative, try to educate yourself about the recovery process in order to be a valuable asset during their journey.

“When can you stop going to meetings?”

    Recovery is an ongoing process with no end date. Meetings provide a safe place for people who understand the devastating effects of addiction, and many people continue to attend meetings for their entire lives.

If you suspect a loved one may have an alcohol addiction, consider talking to a substance abuse counselor or professional yourself. Why? So you can reach out and get the support and skills to:

  1. Have an intervention, or at the very least a conversation
  2. Start to build the framework of what it looks like to get treatment - so when that conversation comes up you can talk to them about what’s involved.

These skills can help you talk to your loved one. For example, a spouse could say, “I’m worried, but I’m not an expert. Let’s talk to someone who is an expert and then decide.” Having already talked to a caring addiction counselor beforehand, the spouse is now prepared for the next step to help their loved one.

If you are concerned and want to know if a loved one has an alcohol addiction, give Care Addiction Center a call at: (630) 402-0144.

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Care Addiction Center
Joined: October 14th, 2020
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