Knowing the right things to say to someone in recovery can be tricky, even if you and the person are very close. In fact, if the person is your spouse, child, or sibling, you may worry even more about accidentally saying the wrong thing. It is a balancing act between being too cheerful and too grim. Much of what to say is situational. Go off your knowledge of the person in recovery and what motivates him or her best.
Inspirational quotes resonate with many people. Your words of encouragement for sobriety could go like this, “I went to hell and back, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Then I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in, happy about life and comfortable in my skin.” Actress Drew Barrymore said these words. She has been pretty open about her addiction battles since childhood and her work getting sober.
You can find quotes from a wide range of celebrities. To make them more meaningful, find quotes from people your loved one looks up to.
“I Love You”
These three words go a long way. They can mean the world to people who are afraid they’ve put you through too much pain and that you are not going to stick around. Say, “I love you,” but be sure you mean it. If you do not feel the love, your words may make someone feel worse, not better.
“I’m Here to Listen”
Often, people in recovery just want to vent. They are dealing with a lot. Many struggle with self-esteem, co-occurring disorders, their own judgment and others’ judgment, financial and personal problems, and uncertainty about the future. They are not necessarily seeking advice from you. They’ve probably had enough of that from plenty of folks.
“Tell Me How I Can Best Help”
To eliminate any guesswork, ask the person directly how you can best help him or her. If the person does not know, try to be there to listen. You may be surprised at the requests people in recovery make. Perhaps they want you to drive them around (to keep them busy), sing with them, go to a movie, or just be around physically.
“This Is What I Can Do for You”
It’s critical that you set your own boundaries for what you will and will not tolerate. For example, you may be OK if a relapse occurs. The odds say it will, especially since addiction rewires the brain. Many experts even say to expect relapse as a part of recovery.
Say your spouse had a history of alcohol-related hospitalizations before going to rehab. If hospitalization is not something you are willing to deal with in case of a relapse, be clear about that. Boundaries are one of the things you likely will discuss in therapy with your loved one at the rehab center.
What to say to someone in recovery largely depends on your relationship with the person and the stage of recovery. You should be good as long as you clarify your boundaries and the ways you can be there for the person.