What NOT to Say When Someone Tells You They’re Sober

What NOT to Say When Someone Tells You They’re Sober

When someone tells you that they’re sober, your response makes a difference. It’s possible, even likely, that they reached their own personal ‘rock bottom’ before starting on the path to recovery and sobriety. So a flippant dismissal or irrelevant response can be invalidating or otherwise harmful.

Here’s what you should avoid saying when talking to someone about their sobriety. 

What is Sobriety?

Sobriety is the continuous, daily decision to lead a life free of drugs or alcohol. In NA/AA philosophy, it is leading a life free of conscious-altering substances, even those that were not previously problematic. Sobriety is not a magical cure for addiction; it’s more like making mindful choices each day to stay in remission. Like other chronic health conditions, addiction includes a significant risk of relapse, which is why it requires life-long commitment and diligent effort.

What Should You NOT Say When Someone Says They Are Sober?

While you may not be in recovery yourself, your comments should not suggest that the recovery is a bad thing. Instead, you should try to encourage others when they say that they’re in recovery. It’s not an easy decision, and they will likely thank you for any support you can offer. 

“Oh, I could never do that.” 

It’s true that sobriety is not always easy. It may be something you’ve tried in the past without success. Or you may simply feel that it’s just too difficult to attempt sobriety. Whatever your personal journey with addiction and recovery may be, you can still offer support for others who are sober. You could say something like: “Congratulations, I’m impressed.” 

“So you’re boring now?” 

It’s true that alcohol and other addictive substances can help a person become the “life of the party.” Just because they were more uninhibited while drinking doesn’t mean sobriety has somehow decreased their value as a friend.  This comment comes across as judgemental and unsupportive, insinuating that their substance use struggles made them a better person than they are in recovery. Not only is this hurtful, it makes it seem as if you’re only interested in them so long as they can be your entertainment. Not cool.

“I liked you better before.” 

It’s true that illicit substances lower inhibitions and may lead some to take more risks. However, just as with the previous comment, suggesting that they are better when actively struggling with addiction is rude and unsupportive. Instead of suggesting addiction made them a more likeable person, put effort into learning who they are in recovery.

 “Well, what happens if you just have one?” or “One wouldn’t hurt, right?” 

When someone tells you that they are sober, it’s not ok to immediately try to tempt them back into active use. Even if that’s not how you mean it, that’s what you’re doing with these questions. Recovery has enough challenges without judgement or statements that seem to encourage them to give up on their hard-earned sobriety. 

“You’ll be back”

If you’re actively discouraging or spurning someone’s decision to seek out recovery and sobriety, maybe it’s time to consider why. It may be because you benefited in some way from their active addiction, either as a companion in your own drug or alcohol use or because their behavior was a welcome distraction from your own difficulties.  If you’re looking for ways to undermine someone’s recovery it may be because of deep-seated issues within your own life. Either way, there are better uses of your energy than planting seeds of doubt for someone else.

What’s the Next Step: Reach Out to Harbor Village

It’s okay if you don’t know what to say or do when someone tells you they are sober. You can reach out to us today for resources and advice for supporting a loved one who is in recovery. If their journey has lead you to question your own relationship with drug or alcohol misuse, we can also offer assistance helping you get on your own journey of recovery.

READY TO TAKE THAT FIRST STEP?

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