What To Say To A Friend Leaving For Rehab
If youve just learned that a friend is leaving for rehab or addiction treatment, heres a few lines you can use if you get tongue-tied:
- I hope you get better soon.
- Im thinking about you.
- Id be glad to check your house/apartment for you while youre gone.
- Please dont worry about work. Just focus on getting well.
- Ill be here when you get home.
These positive messages let the other person know that you care, offer helpful sympathy without forcing advice, and let them know theyre still loved.
The list of what not to say is long, but you should take care to avoid comments like these nonetheless:
- This seems like an awfully big step. Cant you just quit on your own? If they could, they would quit on their own. A diabetic cant order the pancreas to produce insulin. An addict cant order the brain to stop craving substances. It doesnt work that way.
- Hey, youre just like . Each person is an individual. Nobody wants to hear they are just like someone else. They arent. Their problems may be similar to someone elses, but when theyre suffering from them, it all feels very personal.
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How To Talk To Someone About Substance Use
Before talking to loved ones about your concerns, understand that they may not be ready to hear what you have to say they might deny that there is an issue they might find it difficult to accept your help. The best thing you can do in these situations is listen asking guiding questions to keep the conversation going when necessary, but also really allowing your loved ones to talk about whats going on in their lives. Opening up the channels of communication may help your loved ones feel less alone and start working toward acknowledging that they have a problem.
Here are some ways you can gently start a conversation with someone youre concerned about, focusing on your own observations:
- I wanted to check in with you because you havent seemed yourself lately.
- Ive noticed youve been acting differently lately, and Im wondering how youre doing.
- Ive been worried about you lately.
- Ive noticed youve been drinking a lot lately, and Im wondering how youre doing.
- Ive noticed youve been using , and Im worried about you.
Once youve started the conversation, you can begin to ask questions such as these:
- When did you first start feeling like this?
- Do you feel like youre trying to escape or forget something?
- Do you feel like your drug use/drinking is a problem?
- Do you think you could go 24 hours without using drugs/drinking? A week?
- What can I do to best support you right now?
- Have you thought about getting help?
Assist Them With Creating A New Lifestyle
One of the things that can make recovery difficult is finding new things to do in your life that doesnt involve substance abuse. Many of the activities that used to be enjoyed, such as going to the bar for an alcoholic, are no longer viable options as they can be a trigger causing cravings and potential relapse. Addicts tend to avoid these situations but this leaves them with an empty space that needs to be filled with new activities.
What to say to a recovering addict can be along the lines of would you like to do something fun today? and suggest activities that you can both enjoy, such as going fishing or seeing a movie in the theatre.
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Things To Say To Your Addicted Loved One
If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you know that it can be extremely difficult to talk to that person about their addiction. Addiction involves a number of defense mechanisms that serve to protect the addict and their addictive behavior.
Typically when you confront the person about their addiction you may encounter a variety of techniques they use to avoid focusing on the real issue, their addiction. These can include anger, rationalization, avoidance, guilt, aggression or anything else they can do that might prevent you from having a serious and productive conversation.
Talking to an addict about their addiction requires courage, patience, proper planning, good timing, and honesty. Keep in mind that addiction is a disease, and often treating the addiction will require the assistance of a professional. If someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, here are some suggestions that might help to at least start the conversation:
How Do You Know Youre An Alcoholic/addict
At best, this question comes off ignorant about the struggle of addiction. At worst, it sounds like a challenge to the recovering persons judgment and sense of self. In either case, youll want to avoid this one. Meanwhile, attending a meeting with a friend or family member in recovery is a huge gesture of support. It also provides a real education in matters of addiction recovery.
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Im Under A Lot Of Stress Its Okay To Kick Back With This Stuff And Relax
There are many ways you can relax and let go of stress without drugs or alcohol. Lies alcoholics tell, along with lies drug addicts tell, include excusing their behavior with stress, a single event, a memorial or anniversary, or anything to give themselves a reason for taking their substance.
If you find you cant relax and unwind except with drugs and alcohol, you have more problems than simple stress. Although substances such as alcohol can initially make you feel relaxed and sleepy, over time, the bounce-back effect from your neurotransmitters can make you feel even more uptight and wound up than before. Most drugs have a boomerang effect, causing even more stress as they wear off and the cravings for more begin.
Using drugs or alcohol as an excuse to unwind is a common lie addicts tell themselves. Learning new and healthier ways to relax is critical for recovery.
How Racism And Addiction Play Into Language
Arthur*, a former heroin user, also shared his thoughts on the language surrounding addiction. I have more respect for dope fiends, he says, explaining that its a hard road to travel and understand if you havent gone through it yourself.
He also alludes to racism in addiction language, too that people of color are painted as addicted to dirty street drugs, versus white people dependent on clean prescription medications. People say, Im not addicted, Im dependent cause a doctor prescribed it, Arthur adds.
Perhaps its no coincidence that theres growing awareness and empathy now, as more and more white populations are developing dependency and addictions.
Empathy needs to be given to everyone no matter race, sexuality, income, or creed.
We should also aim to remove the terms clean and dirty altogether. These terms hold belittling moralistic notions that people with addictions were once not good enough but now that theyre in recovery and clean, theyre acceptable. People with addictions arent dirty if theyre still using or if a drug test comes back positive for use. People shouldnt have to describe themselves as clean to be considered human.
Dont say this: Are you clean?
Say this instead: How are you doing?
Just like with the use of the term junkie, some people with use disorders may use the term clean to describe their sobriety and recovery. Again, its not up to us to label them and their experience.
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Preparationyou Are Not Alone
Help your loved one create a plan for how they can get treatment. You may want to rush to action after sharing your truth in the previous stage. Patience can hold the key to lasting recovery.
You can support by identifying and addressing obligations or needs your loved one may have as they enter treatment. These concerns may include:
- Identifying caregivers for children
- Communicating a leave of absence to an employer
- Coordinating payments or taking finances into consideration
- Finding care for pets
- Communicating plans with a loved one
- Establishing an emergency action plan
This stage can make choosing treatment easier. Removing or addressing barriers to treatment can allow your loved one to prioritize healing.
Sometimes, substance use can lead to, or stem from, traumatic situations.8 Knowing your local emergency or crisis resources can prepare you to intervene and protect someones health or life.
Crisis Hotlines in the United States9
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 799-7233
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 656-4673
- Child Abuse Hotline: 422-4453
Even the smallest preparations can simplify the process of getting help for addiction. Motivation can change from moment to moment. Proactively planning for treatment can increase your loved ones willingness to engage in a program of recovery.
What To Say To An Addicted Loved One
Before you attempt to talk to a loved one who is st ruggling with drug abuse, it is important to familiarize yourself with the terminology, establish healthy boundaries, and be prepared to express compassion. You can both support them and safeguard your own wellness. You want them to know that you care about them and are willing to assist in any way you can at the end of the day.
Your words should convey compassion and empathy in order to show that you care. Substance use disorder is stigmatized in our society and those with drug addictions are frequently shunned, ridiculed, belittled, and rejected. By accepting the individual with an addiction, even if you dont accept their behavior, you can begin to build toward forgiveness and recovery. The following are things you can say to your addicted loved one:
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You Dont Have A Problem
Its crucial to listen to someone who believes they have a substance abuse problem and to care about their concerns if they come to you with them. You may not see the toll substance abuse is taking on them or their lives, but they do. Theyre trusting you with this information and that you can help them find the support they need if they tell you that they think they have an addiction and need help.
If they trust you enough to help them through this and find the treatment they need, let them know that you care. Telling them to only keep it in moderation isnt a good idea either. This implies that they are in control of their addiction, which they do not. You need to support their efforts to get clean, not advocate against using at all. No one wants to be out of control. It is the best thing you can do is to support their efforts to get sober.
Stage : Precontemplationhow Are You Doing
Someone active in addiction may not recognize the effects substance use has had on them. One may not recognize their need for treatment despite the effects of their use2. Time spent searching for and consuming substances cuts into time spent in self-reflection.
Even if a person stops using, they may not realize the intensity of their need. Approaching a person at this stage of change with facts, figures, and evidence may foster a defensive attitude. Self-reflection may feel unbearable and trigger cravings or a desire to use substances to escape reality.
Someone facing a substance use disorder may experience intense feelings of shame and guilt. These strong feelings may lead to depressed moods making it harder for a person in recovery to maintain sobriety, even if they seek treatment3.
Pre-contemplation highlights this avoidance. This stage of change describes a persons lack of insight into the impact of their actions. Without a compassionate approach, your loved one may want to continue to use substances. People may use substances to avoid the painful reality of their circumstances.
Try increasing your loved ones self-awareness with curiosity, openness, and a non-judgmental attitude. Ask about their perspective, as they may want to share more. Sometimes, all a person needs is a safe space to talk about their experiences openly.
Use this connection to help your loved one consider changes they would like to make.
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I Can Stop Anytime I Want To
You may wish this were true, or you may still feel this to be true. However, unless you have proven that you can successfully quit using drugs or alcohol without cravings or withdrawal symptoms, you cant truly stop anytime you want to.
A major sign of addiction is that substance abusers cant stop using despite their best intentions. It has nothing to with willpower or strength of character. The body itself changes as it adapts to alcohol and drugs, setting up a cascade of chemicals that causes physical cravings and withdrawal.
Psychologically, your mind also craves drugs and alcohol for various reasons. These reasons dont go away on their own, and they remain even if you try to quit. Without addressing these reasons in recovery, youre still vulnerable to restarting your habit.
Stopping anytime you want to stop is a myth that many addicts continue to believe and a lie they tell themselves to justify their drinking and drug habits. If they feel they can stop at will, then its okay to continue, they tell themselves. Unfortunately, by then it is often too late to stop voluntarily.
Everyone Needs A Little Help
Its not something to be embarrassed about getting help. Nearly 10% of Americans suffer from addiction at some point in life.
Many dont seek out help. Many more fall victim to the addiction when they give up on seeking help. Talk to your loved and say that getting help for yourself is the most courageous decision they can make.
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How To Set Boundariesand Stick To Them
Do You Believe Youre Struggling Do You Think Alcohol/drugs Are Making Your Life Unmanageable
As any interpersonal communication expert will tell us, asking questions is essential. Listening is too. The first step of Alcoholics Anonymous states, We admitted we were powerless over alcoholthat our lives had become unmanageable. We know the thought of suggesting AA right off the bat might sound daunting . So before you encourage a 12-step program, simply ask the question.
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Will My Friend Get Into Trouble
If your friend needs medical help either from a clinic or an ambulance its essential that you tell the people helping everything you know about the drugs theyve taken.
And if you have any drugs left, hand them over to the medics as it may help them understand the problem.
They won’t tell the police and you wont get into trouble.
If your friend is caught with drugs, they might get into trouble. They might get a warning, an arrest, a formal caution or a conviction. This will depend on the drugs theyre caught with and what theyre doing with them.
If your friend is caught with drugs at school or university they might get into trouble there too. Getting caught with drugs in school or uni can lead to suspension or expulsion, and to the police getting involved.
Shifting Our Perspective From Ourselves To Them
When it comes to addiction, using people-first language doesnt always cross everyones mind. In fact, it hadnt actually crossed mine until recently. Several years ago, many close friends experienced addiction and substance use disorders. Others in our extended friend group overdosed and died.
Before working at Healthline, I worked as a personal care assistant for a woman with disabilities throughout college. She taught me so much and brought me out of my able-bodied ignorance teaching me how much words, no matter how seemingly small, can affect someone.
But somehow, even when my friends were going through addiction, empathy didnt come so easily. Looking back, Id been demanding, self-centered, and at times mean. This is what a typical conversation looked like:
Are you shooting up? How much do you do? Why wont you return my calls? I want to help you!
I cant believe theyre using again. Thats it. Im done.
Why do they gotta be such a junkie?
At the time, I was having a hard time separating my emotions from the situation. I was scared and lashing out. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. My friends stopped misusing substances and got the support they needed. No words can convey how proud I am of them.
But I hadnt really thought about my language and others surrounding addiction until now. I cringe at my actions, realizing that Id been mistaking my discomfort for wanting to help.
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Change Wont Come Overnight Were All A Work In Progress
The reality is and will remain that people want to sweep this under the rug, says Joe, a landscaper and former heroin user. Its not like its going to change overnight, in a week, or in a month, he says.
But Joe also explains how quickly people can change, like his family did once he began treatment.
It may seem that after a person has overcome their substance use disorder, everything will be fine going forward. After all, theyre healthy now. What more could anyone want for a loved one? But the work doesnt stop for the former user.
As they say in some circles, recovery takes a lifetime. Loved ones need to realize this is the case for many people. Loved ones need to know they themselves need to continue to work to maintain a more empathetic understanding, too.
The aftermath of being a drug addict is sometimes the hardest part, explains Tori. To be honest, my parents still dont understand was just really technical, medical language, or that I had a disease, but to me, it was exhausting, she says.
Dr. Stalcup agrees that the language families use is absolutely critical. While its wonderful to show an interest in your loved ones recovery, he stresses that how you do it matters. Asking about their progress isnt the same as if your loved one has diabetes, for example.
Dont say this: Have any cravings lately?
Say this instead: What have you been up to, anything new? Wanna go on a hike this weekend?