3 Things Not To Say to Someone with an Addiction

Posted by Matt Johnston, Contributing Writer, on Oct 22, 2021

3 Things Not To Say to Someone with an Addiction

Words matter, especially to someone facing a complex and often-misunderstood condition like addiction. What can we say to communicate our support and encouragement to someone dealing with addiction? And what kinds of things should we NOT say?

Listening well, without judgment, is our most important first step. It’s a powerful way to fight the shame and stigma that often accompany addiction.

But when an opportunity comes up to speak, here are three kinds of statements to avoid:

1. “This is a spiritual issue. You just need to get right with God.”

Being quick to over-spiritualize the situation is a sure way to alienate your friend and position them as distant from God. It’s all too easy to “weaponize” someone’s spiritual health to guilt them into changing their behavior. While those who recover from addiction often point to spiritual growth as a critical part of the recovery process, it’s not fair (and likely inaccurate) to say that addiction is only a spiritual disease.

Try this instead: “You may feel powerless to stop on your own, but God is strong enough to help us conquer this together.”

This is a great way to remind a friend that—although the power to overcome addiction is God’s alone—they have your support on their journey. Look for other ways to remind them that God is strong enough to handle whatever they are facing, and that you’ll also be there for them along the way.


2. “I don't know anyone else going through this.”

While it may be true, this statement only serves to isolate and marginalize the person hearing it. We may not know if someone else is struggling with addiction; just because we aren’t aware of a personal struggle doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Instead, say this: “You’re not alone.”

This short statement doesn’t just mean, “I’m here.” It’s another way of stating a truth found in the Bible:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

In other words, while this struggle may be extreme, it’s not uncommon. Others have battled with this same type of addiction, and there are valuable lessons and proven ways to find victory in the struggle.


3. “If you really wanted to, you could just stop.”

Stopping unwanted behavior as a result of sheer will is much easier said than done. Numerous factors can contribute to a person’s addiction, and none of them are easily managed by flipping an internal switch from “yes” to “no.” Past traumas, chemical imbalances, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and more can all contribute to addiction.

Instead, try asking, “Is there anything I or the church can do to help?”

We can find strength in numbers, and the pooled resources of the church are far deeper and richer than any one person. This kind of statement also helps to check any temptation we might have to assume we know what should be done. We need to let the other person have the initial say in what kind of outside help they want.


Bottom line: 

If you’re in a position for someone to share with you their struggle with addiction, it is not your job to fix them, shame them, judge them, or even inspire them. Simply listen to what they have to say, empathize with their experience the best you can, and work to keep them tied to your community or groupWhile you may not be a trained addiction specialist, you can offer the incredible gift of your presence and encouragement while they overcome addiction.


Share This:

Recent Stories

Swipe to Discover more

3 Ways To Keep Learning About Black History

Feb 25, 2024

Black History Month celebrates the heritage and achievements of black Americans, past and present. But why and how can we keep learning, once February is over?


Remembering the Dream: Honoring MLK, Jr.

Feb 23, 2024

Several Chase Oakers share their reflections on the impact and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.


Five Things You Can Do For Lent This Year

Feb 11, 2024

What's the history of Lent? How is it observed? It's not just a way to pass time before Easter. It's a great opportunity to take some steps toward personal transformation.


Creative Ways that Everyone Can Celebrate Love

Feb 09, 2024

Valentine’s Day: love it, hate it, skip it? Whatever your view, love is for everyone at any age or life stage. We’ve got some fresh ideas for how everyone can celebrate love this week and beyond.


Where To Celebrate Lunar New Year 2024 in DFW

Feb 05, 2024

Happy Lunar New Year 2024! We've listed just a few of the many places you can celebrate the Year of the Dragon in DFW.


Four Reasons Why We Should Celebrate Black History Month

Jan 30, 2024

Black History Month is a celebration of the lives and achievements of African Americans who have made a difference in our world.


The Local Good Pantry: Nourishing Communities, Creating Hope

Jan 26, 2024

The newly opened Local Good Pantry offers hope to the surrounding community by addressing hunger and food insecurity with dignity.


12 Bible Verses for When You're Feeling Anxious

Jan 21, 2024

Feeling anxious? You're not alone. Be encouraged by these 12 Bible verses and the reassuring perspective they provide.


Finding Freedom and Forgiveness After Abuse: Rowena's Story (Part 2)

Jan 11, 2024

In confronting the cycle of abuse in her life, one woman found hope, healing, and something else: the freeing power of forgiveness.


Finding Freedom and Forgiveness After Abuse: Rowena's Story (Part 1)

Jan 10, 2024

Seeking to end years of domestic abuse, one woman found healing from an unexpected source.