Questions Not to Ask Recovering Addicts

When you know someone who’s attempting to overcome a drug problem, naturally you want to offer your support. In fact, there are questions to ask a recovering drug addict that can help open a productive dialogue.  But there are also questions you should not ask a recovering drug addict, if you seriously want to contribute to their healing. Here are some of the questions you should not ask a recovering addict:

“I never thought you were that bad. Are you sure you’re really an addict?”

You might think this will make the person you’re talking to feel better, but you’ll do them no favors if you encourage them by minimizing the problem. It can take a long time for a drug addict to break through the walls of denial they erect, and you shouldn’t say anything that might make them have second thoughts about the depth of their drug problem.

“We all knew you had a drug problem. Why didn’t you quit sooner?”

It’s amazing, but some people actually think guilt can be an effective motivator. In fact trying to shame someone into staying on the straight and narrow can only backfire. Negative self-judgments damage self-esteem, and people with a poor self-image have a hard time generating the confidence and energy necessary to sustain positive change.

“It’s great that you’re off drugs. Would you like to have a drink to celebrate?”

Recovering drug addicts must avoid all intoxicating substances, not just the ones they’re addicted to. This includes alcohol, which many people seem to believe is in a special category separate from illicit drugs. From the standpoint of someone with a substance abuse problem, that is both a false and a dangerous assumption.

“We’re all going to a party tomorrow night. Will you come along and be the designated driver?”

People in recovery shouldn’t be encouraged to attend events where the alcohol will be flowing freely, even if their problem isn’t specifically alcohol-related. Recovery is an ongoing process and drug addicts can remain fragile and vulnerable for a long time, regardless of how successful their rehab seems to have been. If they give in to temptation and have just one drink, their chances of relapsing back into drug use will be considerably heightened.

“Have you been going to your Narcotics Anonymous (or similar 12-step group) meetings? What’s that like?”

If a recovering drug addict brings up this topic on their own, it’s a sign they’re ready and prepared to speak about their process of healing and recovery. But there’s a reason why such groups are called “anonymous.” What goes on at NA meetings is private and personal and no one who participates should be pushed into revealing more than they’d like.

“How are you feeling? Are you having cravings? Have you been tempted to use drugs today?”

There are good questions to ask a recovering drug addict, and then there are queries like these. Recovering addicts don’t need constant reminders of how difficult their struggle is. They already know it, and they don’t want people obsessing over their addiction to the exclusion of everything else. More than anything they’re trying to move on with their lives, and unless they specifically raise the subject of their drug dependency it’s a good bet they’d prefer to discuss more hopeful and uplifting topics.

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