What NOT To Say To An Alcoholic
When it comes to helping someone through an addiction to drugs or alcohol, oftentimes people find themselves thinking of the proper things to say. Regardless of whether or not the alcoholic is asking for assistance, many times people find themselves struggling to find words of encouragement, advice, or warning.
What people might not remember as frequently is that there are just as many things not to say to an alcoholic. In fact, there are quite possibly more of them. Even people with the best intentions may not always recognize that many addicts are quite sensitive about their problems, even if they’re outwardly confident or even aggressive about them.
If you’re thinking about approaching an alcoholic or an addict in the near future, you should consider not saying the following things to them. The point of approaching someone with an addiction is to encourage them to seek treatment or find help, not to aggravate them and make them upset. These things should be avoided during conversation, because they might cause more harm than good.
1“That’s not the right way to deal with your problems.”
This notion is one of the biggest reasons that alcoholics and addicts of many sorts have a difficult time seeking help – because they’re afraid of being judged. A fear of judgment makes someone afraid to open up about their problems for a couple reasons.
- They’re worried that their honesty may damage the relationship
- They’re afraid to admit the problem to themselves
- They’re worried about their social image
Being compassionate and understanding is important because it allows the alcoholic to feel comfortable. This is the first step towards them examining and seeking help for their alcoholism, which can be difficult if the only available supports are judgmental.
This isn’t as much of a problem for alcoholics as it is for drug addicts, since alcohol is more socially acceptable. However, that can become a detriment, as shown in our next example:
2“You’ll be fine.”
This is one of the few situations in which optimism is not a suggested course of action. This problem contributed massively to the rates of alcoholism among youth. It’s not often that people suffering from addictions have to cope with this passive negligence, because very few people will try to reassure a heroin addict that they’ll be fine if they inject another bag.
Alcoholics, however, do not always have the luxury of excessive concern that hard drug users enjoy. In public venues, alcoholics can blend in perfectly with the rest of the crowd, leaving none the wiser to the addictive habits of the alcoholic. Thus, people aren’t likely to refrain from encouraging them to take another drink.
This can also be a problem for people who live in social environments. If a friend arrives unannounced to a college-age friend’s dorm with a case of beer, it will be hard for the friend to refuse the offer if they have a problem with drinking. Even if they’re trying to stay sober to study for finals, the addicted brain can rationalize a relapse faster than a calculator can square a number.
3“Oh man, I give up.”
Every alcoholic loves to hear about their friends losing faith in them. Not.
One of the most difficult responsibilities that comes with being friends with an alcoholic is supporting them. They may be obnoxious, difficult, unstable – but they’re your friend, and you should treat them as such.
If things are truly too much, tell them that you need space for a while. If it’s really too much, tell them kindly that their alcoholism is damaging the quality of your life and that you’re willing to help them get treatment.
Never tell them that you’re giving up or that you think they’re hopeless.
4“Remember when you (fell/tripped/bailed)?”
Taking a tumble while you’re walking down a grassy hill is all fun and dandy if it happens the first or second time you’ve gone drinking. It can still be satisfying when you have to find out about it from a third-party source after inquiring about the bruises on your head.
However, there comes a point in life where a heavy drinker has to choose to stop drinking or to live as an alcoholic. If they have chosen the latter – and there is no weakness in this situation, as some people need serious psychological help and may use alcohol to bridge the gap until they can get this help – then suddenly, drinking isn’t funny anymore. It’s a problem, it’s embarrassing, and no, no alcoholic wants to be reminded of how they fell down the stairs trying to drink themselves to sleep.
5“Why don’t you just quit?”
Why don’t you ask a more loaded question?
This question is almost always met with hesitation, either from mild offense, surprise (at the question or at their own lack of an answer), or from trying to figure out where to start.
- If they work, go to school, or regularly socialize, then they’ll need a drink to stave off withdrawals so they can function.
- They may live in a heavily peer pressured environment.
- They may suffer from social anxiety or depression or other mental illnesses that remain unaddressed.
There are a lot of reasons that alcoholics don’t “just quit,” and trust me, they’ve probably tried to work around them.