Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
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March 30, 2019

What Not to Say to an Alcoholic

If someone you love is an alcoholic, you’ve likely been affected by their addiction. It can be a challenge to know what to say and what not to say to an alcoholic. When you aren’t the one addicted to a substance, it can make you feel helpless and frustrated that you can’t do more to help your loved one overcome their addiction and change their life for the better.

At times, this frustration and worry can manifest itself in ways that can cause you to say things that you wouldn’t normally say to your loved one. Whether your loved one is an active user, in recovery and going through their alcohol detox, in an inpatient alcohol treatment program, or living in recovery, it can be difficult to know what you should avoid saying. We’ve broken down a few things not to say to an alcoholic below.

Communicating With An Alcoholic: What Not to Say

1. “Why can’t you just stop drinking?”

To someone who isn’t struggling with an addiction, it can seem as black and white as making a choice to stop drinking. It’s important to keep in mind that alcohol use disorder is a disease and not areflection of personal willpower. To be empathetic and understanding with a loved one battling an addiction problem, it’s helpful to do research about addiction and recovery so that you have a better understanding of what alcoholism is and how it affects addicted individuals. Knowing this can help you approach them from a place of love and understanding.

2. “Why aren’t you drinking?”

This question can often come up in social situations and only serves to draw attention to the addicted individual in a way that can make them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, and frustrated. By asking them why they aren’t drinking, you’re asking them to address their addiction and their status in recovery. This question should be avoided. If your loved one is not drinking, they have a reason and they don’t need to share it. If they choose to discuss their addiction and recovery with you in a more private setting, that is their choice.

3. “Recovery should be done this way. You’re doing it wrong.”

If your loved one is in recovery and trying to live a sober lifestyle, that is a huge step in a positive direction. Addiction recovery and sobriety looks different for everyone and the path to maintaining a sober lifestyle can be achieved through many different avenues. What works well for one person may not for someone else and vice versa. Be supportive and understanding of an addicted loved one rather than trying to enforce what you think is the right path onto them.

4. “Don’t worry, I put away all of the alcohol.”

If you’re having a loved one over who is an alcoholic, your first impulse may be to make sure that all of your alcohol is put away where it is out of sight and that you inform your loved one of that fact. This can actually make them feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, which is likely not your intention at all. You may think you are being thoughtful and trying your best to help support their recovery and avoid their impulse to drink, but the reality is that alcohol is available every single day.

Instead of telling them you hid all of the alcohol in your house from them, try speaking to them in private before they come over and ask if there is anything special you can do to be supportive of their recovery and then honor their response. This shows them that you are there to help and that your intentions come from a place of love. This also gives them the opportunity to let you know anything you can do to help without them feeling embarrassed or caught off guard.

5. “It’s a celebration, just have one!”

If you’re unaware of how addiction works, it can feel tempting to prompt an alcoholic to just have one drink for a special occasion or celebration, but this can endanger their sobriety and expose them to unnecessary temptation. While you may be able to have one drink and stop, an alcoholic can be tempted to keep drinking well beyond just a single drink. While a previous addict may be able to drink responsibly in some rare cases, it’s never worth it to risk suggesting this to someone in recovery. Be mindful of this and avoid pressuring them to drink.

If you’re loved one is ready to get help for their alcohol problem, you can help them find the right addiction treatment and give them the emotional support they need to make it through rehab. In severe cases, a long term residential treatment facility may the best option. For more information, please contact our Florida drug rehab center today.


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  • Orchid. “What NOT to Say to an Alcoholic.” Retrieved from