Talking to a newly sober friend or family may seem difficult initially. You may not know much about the addiction recovery process or how that person is coping in sobriety. However, spending time with a newly sober person can be highly rewarding. It can strengthen your relationship and lead to healthier changes for both of you.
The key to talking to a newly sober person is being understanding, staying positive, and supporting their new lifestyle. Here are vital tips to help you connect with and support friends and family who have recently recovered.
Be Mindful, Respectful, and Empathic
Substance abuse treatment usually involves several days of detox and withdrawal, followed by several weeks of behavioral therapy. Those in recovery then learn how to change harmful thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes about addiction. Addiction treatment can be a stressful, trying process and requires hard work and commitment.
Be mindful, respectful, and empathic when speaking to friends or family members who have completed an addiction treatment program. These individuals were brave enough to seek treatment and likely made many sacrifices to become healthier, sober versions of themselves. Avoid speaking negatively of addiction or recovery, which may seem discouraging to your newly sober friend.
Choose the Right Words
Certain words related to addiction can be highly stigmatizing. They can sometimes make people in recovery feel guilty, embarrassed, unworthy, or angry with themselves or their situation. In some instances, negative words about addiction can even lead to setbacks in the person’s recovery, reports the National Institutes of Health.
Avoid certain words and phrases when talking to a newly sober person, including “junkie,” “recovering addict,” “drunk,” and “alcoholic.” Instead, use positive and affirming words and phrases that support sobriety. For example, stick to terms like “people in recovery” and “substance use disorder.”
Mention Fun, Sober Activities
A newly sober person doesn’t want to hear your stories about going to bars and clubs. These conversations may remind them of experiences they are trying to forget, especially when trying to make progress in their recovery.
Instead, highlight your experiences related to fun and sober activities, such as that beautiful new hiking trail you discovered. A person in recovery needs to discover new activities that will motivate them to stay on track with recovery.
Stay Aware of Potential Triggers
Triggers for people in recovery are places, people, and things that remind them of drug and alcohol use. This usually includes places where they used drugs and alcohol and people they used them with. Triggers can also be items like favorite drinking cups, lighters, or chairs they may have used while drinking alcohol or using substances. When spending time with your newly recovered friend or family member, stay aware of these types of triggers and avoid them whenever possible.
Be Open to Your Friend’s Making New, Sober Friends
An exciting aspect of recovery is making new, sober friends who may have similar experiences and understanding the challenges of sobriety. Be open to their connections with people met in support groups or at their treatment center. Interacting with these individuals can help your newly sober friend or relative stay connected to the recovery community. They can continue receiving the support they need to achieve long-term sobriety.
Don’t Micromanage Their Sobriety
Some friends and relatives go out of their way to monitor their loved ones’ sober living to make sure they stay abstinent. They may follow their loved ones, questioning them about their plans and whereabouts. They may even start snooping in drawers and cabinets, looking for signs of drug and alcohol use. While these behaviors may seem helpful, in reality, they are often overbearing, negative, and alienating to newly sober people.
Understand that your sober loved one knows the consequences of resuming drug and alcohol use. They’re responsible for taking charge of their recovery. Part of addiction recovery is mastering skills that can help you avoid triggers and handle difficult situations without alcohol or drugs. Hovering over your loved ones may set them back in their recovery and prevent them from becoming more independent and sober individuals.
Consider Attending Open Meetings
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings allow newly sober individuals to share their experiences related to drug and alcohol use. These support group meetings are highly beneficial for those in recovery. They allow them to bond and network with peers who can relate to their situations.
If you feel that you need to better understand addiction and recovery, consider going to an open AA or NA meeting. You can hear stories from others in recovery. Open AA and NA meetings are for anyone interested in learning more about the experience of alcohol use disorder. Closed meetings are limited only to people who think they have a problem with drinking or substance misuse.
Or, you can attend an Al-Anon meeting, a support group for people whose lives have been affected by someone’s drinking. People who attend Al-Anon (or Nar-Anon) meetings can share tips on how to talk with someone who’s newly sober.
Understand Your Friend May Have Sponsors and Other Outlets
A newly sober person may feel most comfortable talking to addiction treatment professionals, AA or NA sponsors, and peers in recovery. They know they can lend an ear without passing judgment. These individuals may help them feel more positive about sobriety and teach them new coping mechanisms. Those can both help them get through difficult days.
Don’t feel hurt or offended if it seems like your newly sober friend or relative is using outlets other than you. These other individuals likely have more experience dealing with addiction. They can provide your loved one with the advice and support they need right now to stay sober.
The Recovery Team in Lake Park, Florida, offers residential and outpatient treatment for active addiction and mental health disorders.