Finding Your Anti-drunk

20 JAN 2022

5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Recovering Alcoholic (And 1 Thing You Should Say)

Use the Right Words to Support a Recovering Alcoholic

We’ve all been there. You’re at a party or social gathering and talking to someone. You do the polite thing and offer them a drink, because that’s a commonly accepted social practice. That’s when they tell you, “no thanks, I don’t drink.” What do you do next? Here are five things you shouldn’t say to a recovering alcoholic or other recovering substance abuser, and one thing you should say.

  • “Are you sure you don’t want a drink?” – Seriously, this is a great way to make them feel very uncomfortable, not to mention upset that you somehow think their struggles with alcohol either are not real or are not important enough to acknowledge in a serious and sincere manner. Don’t say this.
  • “Oh, there’s only a little bit of alcohol in here, it’s mostly other stuff.” – While some recovering alcoholics do make exceptions for things like virgin martinis or non-alcoholic beer, not everyone wants to risk the danger that comes with putting even a small bit of alcohol into their system. People become alcoholics because they have an almost allergic reaction to it. You wouldn’t offer someone with a deathly peanut allergy a candy bar with “just a tiny bit” of peanuts in it, so you probably shouldn’t do the same with alcohol.
  • “What made you decide to stop being alcoholic?” – This is a very personal question, and while it’s true that some recovering alcoholics are more than happy to share their stories, even with strangers (hence AA and other similar organizations), not everyone cares to tell a stranger or minor acquaintance about this point in their life. Would you want to share your darkest moments with someone you didn’t know very well? Wouldn’t that offend you?
  • “But it’s a really good drink!” – Right, it might be a vintage bottle of wine that’s worth thousands of dollars, but that’s not a good reason for a recovering alcoholic to start drinking again. No matter how good it might be, it’s not good enough for a recovering alcoholic to hop back onto the drinking wagon. Thanks, but no thanks.
  • “But how can you have fun without a drink?” – The only people who say that the only way to have fun at a party are the ones who need to consider why they can’t enjoy themselves or overcome their self-consciousness without a drink in their hands. If you say this to a recovering alcoholic, they will probably smile at you sadly and walk away, because you need helping and really, you’re the only one who can help yourself.
  • “I understand.” – You don’t even have to apologize – it’s not like they expect everyone to know they prefer not to drink. But a recovering alcoholic will appreciate that you empathize enough to not push something that is literally toxic to their health. That might go a long way in turning a stranger into a friend.


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