Many people in recovery from substance use worry about becoming “that guy or girl” who is so enamored with sobriety that they become overly preachy about its merits and annoy those around them. It is understandable that if you are doing well in recovery, feeling good, and seeing positive things coming from being sober that you would want to share this news with other people who are struggling with substance use. Many people recovery sincerely want to help others who are still struggling with these issues. In fact, I’ve had many clients come into a session feeling upset because they tried to talk to a friend who was still using about getting sober and it wasn’t received well.
So, are there ways to approach these conversations in a way that is more likely to be truly heard/received well? Can we talk to those who are struggling without coming across as that annoying person who is always preaching AA and how abstinence is the only way? The answer I would give to that is yes we can, if we are mindful in how we approach these conversations. I would also emphasize that sometimes our actions have more power in these situations then our words.
One thing that is often helpful is going into these conversations with our only agenda being to talk to the person about how sobriety has been helpful for us. Going in with the goal of changing the other person’s thoughts about their use is not likely to be successful. Often when we go into the conversation with that mentality, the other person is actually less likely to listen to what we have to say. In changing the conversation from a “you have to do all these things I’m doing to recover” to “hey here’s how my life has changed and how what I’m doing that is working for me” is a profound shift. Not only can it help us avoid being perceived as being preachy or bossy, but it also is more likely that the other person will actually be able to take in what we are saying without dismissing it.
Seeing people we care about struggling with addiction is hard. Especially when we are having success in sobriety ourselves, it can be very tempting to be very forceful in giving advice and attempting to help others who are struggling. While this comes from a place of love and caring, we also must remember that the choice to not drink or use and get help with accomplishing that if needed is an individual one, and it is not a choice we can make for another human being no matter how much we may want to.
Questions about helping others struggling with sobriety or anything related to sobriety? Feel free to get in touch!