10 Things You Shouldn't Say to a Recovering Alcoholic


I’ve thought a while about these. Now, keep in mind, they do not apply to everyone. Some people may not care about some of these things being said to them, but I think they shouldn’t be said to a recovering alcoholic. I looked back at the last two years of my sobriety and thought of the things that have upset me. Maybe you can relate. If you think of anything else, let me know in the comments section.

1. Do you think I might be an alcoholic?

Only you as an individual can answer this. Sober people can only offer their opinion. Remember, admittance is the first step to recovery, no matter what program you choose to follow. I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me to diagnose them as alcoholic. Just because we are sober doesn’t mean we can immediately tell you if you are an alcoholic or not. If you are to the point where you are asking others if you are an alcoholic, you may want to meditate, pray, whatever your belief system is, or see a professional and figure out if you are or not. You are obviously asking for a reason.

2. Can’t you just drink less?

Now, I know not everyone understands what alcoholism is or how it works, but this question is so rude. We quit drinking for a reason. If we could handle our alcohol consumption, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. No, we cannot just drink less.

3. Do you think ____ is an alcoholic? 

No, just like I can’t tell you if you are an alcoholic or not, I sure as heck can’t tell you if some third party you are asking about is either. There is a lot wrong with this question, aside from the obvious. You are also spreading someone’s business and not allowing them to tell people on their own, if they are in fact alcoholic. If you think someone is an alcoholic, sit down and talk to them. Tell them what you think without being accusatory or automatically labeling them an alcoholic. There is a lot that comes with that designation, and you don’t want to use that word for nothing.

4. One drink won’t kill you!

Actually, one drink could kill an alcoholic. It can kill them immediately or it could kill them in the long run. We quit drinking and decided to admit we had a problem with alcoholism for a reason. This means we can’t drink anymore. That one drink could send us into a bender or a lifetime of drinking more. We quit drinking because we couldn’t control our alcohol consumption. This would be like asking a recovering crack addict if he or she can handle just one more hit. Not only is this question rude, it is basically saying you don’t believe or trust your friend since you are questioning them.

5. If you don’t drink for fun, what do you do then?

If you rely on a drink to have fun, then you might have a problem. A huge part of recovery is learning and exploring different ways to stay happy. We have learned to have fun without outside stimulation. It is very difficult to do, but we did. This isn’t to say we don’t think about the drink frequently. We just know the only way we can continue to be better people is to not have a drink for the rest of our lives.

6. Do you care if I drink?

No, it is your life and your decision. You don’t need an alcoholic’s approval to drink around them. Just because you drink in front of us doesn’t mean we will steal your drink from your hands and chug it. The last thing anyone wants, who is having to make a major life decision, is to feel like their friends and family can’t be themselves around you. Be you. If we have an issue, we will say something. Don’t change yourself for us.

7. You quit… for good?!

Yes, we are alcoholics. We can’t stop and start and stop again when we please. We are sober for life. Although I may have relapses, my goal is to quit drinking for life.

8. You are not an alcoholic!

I didn’t realize we shared a brain! You don’t know what it took for us to get to the point where we admitted we had a problem with alcohol and where we are in our lives right now. If someone says they are an alcoholic, trust them and don’t question it. If you tell someone who is struggling with the beginning stages of sobriety that you don’t think they are an alcoholic, they may latch onto that and question it and continue drinking.

9. Hold my drink.

No! I will not hold your drink. I don’t drink, I’m not going to babysit your drink for you. If I’m holding it, I might take a drink. Sure, we build up a respect for our disease and manage it the best we can, but that’s like dangling a carrot in front of a horse, or putting a pipe full of drugs in the hand of an addict. You are basically setting us up to fail. It very rude and disrespectful.

10. I don’t understand alcoholism.

That’s fine, we don’t expect non-alcoholics to understand this disease. The only people who can truly understand it is the alcoholics themselves. You may have someone very close to you and have seen their struggle for sobriety, but you don’t see it from their point of view, as the alcoholic. It’s very different on the other side. What we can do is try and tell you as much as we can about our disease as we know it, what we are doing to make ourselves better, and how you can help us achieve it.

Now, as you can see these are personal pet peeves. They also go within certain contexts of conversations.

Do you really dislike hearing a certain phrase uttered to you? Share it in the comments below. Please also explain the context of the phrase so we can easily understand it.

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Thinkstock photo by Mr Korn Flakes

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