Responding to Doubters in Recovery (Part II)


In a previous installment, Responding to Doubters in Recovery (Part I), the different types of cynics many people in recovery come across are discussed. This post focuses on providing patients with suggestions on handling encounters with people who appear to express negativity and discouragement regarding their recovery journey. Being ill-equipped to deal with such people can often be triggering, and the effects of these exchanges could potentially evoke lingering self-doubt and sabotage. While it’s impossible to always be prepared for the odd quip or banter surrounding addiction with those who are currently dealing with their own problems, having a mental list of replies that shut down unwanted conversation can feel empowering.

Handling conversations with…

Active users in denial: These discussions tend to be the most anxiety-inducing, especially for patients in early treatment. Those who are actively misusing substances somehow seem to know just what to say to make people in recovery feel unsure of themselves, primarily due to shared experience with addiction. Besides immediately disengaging and leaving the shared space with this kind of person, some phrases can be used as a shield, mainly if this person may be potentially encountered again.

  • “What I’ve achieved in treatment is possible for everyone, even you, despite what you may think.”
  • “I used to think like you, but I’m glad I’ve reached the other side.”
  • “There is a way out. You don’t have to live like this and have these thoughts about me.”
  • “I’ve worked hard to get where I am; nothing you say will make me want to return to that place.”
  • “Life is much better when all your thoughts don’t revolve around using.”
  • “You’d enjoy the things I do if you got help with the addiction that runs your life.”

Chronic relapse sufferers: It’s difficult to come across a peer in recovery who has trouble staying on course. Although relapse is part of recovery, people who succumb to every trigger without putting in the work to overcome their problems are often discouraged, and misery loves company. It’s important to treat people in the chronic relapse boat with some empathy and compassion, without allowing their doubts to anchor can cause insecurity.

  • “I know you think you can’t get better, but I’m proof you can.”
  • “If you ever want to give it another go, I can recommend some groups.”
  • “You’re not a failure; you can get back on track today.”
  • “The recovery route you chose in the past isn’t the only way to stop the cycle.”
  • “I’m confident in my recovery plan, and it can work for you, too.”

Out-of-touch skeptics: Few people understand the advancements in addiction science and the FDA-approved medications that have saved millions of lives. This type of doubter usually stems from familiarity, whether they’re an acquaintance or family member who knows someone’s method of recovery.

  • “My treatment course has saved my life, and I’m working hard every day.”
  • “Judge me for who I am today, not for my past troubles.”
  • “I may make this look easy, but all my effort goes towards my recovery.”
  • “Please don’t place my worth on my experience with a chronic illness.”
  • “I have faith in my treatment and recovery journey, and so should you.”

Old-school methodologists: Treatment options have advanced most recently, and many people who overcame their chronic substance misuse may not have had these options, so they remain skeptical and judgmental. These types of doubters are becoming more rare, but encountering them can feel daunting.

  • “The recovery method I chose works for me, and I’m grateful for it.”
  • “Your idea of sobriety is different from my long-term goals in treatment.”
  • “I work hard to maintain recovery, regardless of your bias and ideals.”
  • “Your concern is appreciated, but I have a team of professionals guiding me.”

BAART Programs offer comprehensive addiction treatment for those struggling with substance use disorder. With the help of specialized medical providers and nursing staff, patients are given the tools they need to achieve long-lasting recovery. To learn more about the programs available, message or call a local BAART clinic today.


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