September 6


Sober Support: What to Say to Someone in Recovery

By Joshua Turner

September 6, 2023

Talking to someone who is sober can be a delicate situation. While you want to show support and encouragement, choosing the right words is important to avoid stigmatizing language.

Understanding the recovery process and navigating triggers and temptations can also help you build trust and maintain boundaries.

Expressing support and encouragement is essential when talking to someone who is sober. Celebrating sobriety anniversaries and finding inspiration and motivation can help them stay on track.

Supporting relationships and emotional health can also make a significant difference in their recovery process. Understanding the genetic component of addiction can also help you better comprehend the challenges they face.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right words is crucial to avoid stigmatizing language and show support.
  • Understanding the recovery process and navigating triggers and temptations can help build trust and maintain boundaries.
  • Celebrating sobriety anniversaries, finding inspiration and motivation, and supporting relationships and emotional health are essential in the recovery process.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Words

When speaking to someone who is sober, it’s important to choose your words carefully. The wrong words can be triggering and damaging to their recovery. Here are a few tips on how to communicate effectively with someone who is sober:

  • Avoid using words that glamorize or glorify drinking or drug use.
  • Refrain from asking questions about their past substance use unless they bring it up themselves.
  • Use supportive and encouraging language to acknowledge their efforts in staying sober.
  • Respect their boundaries and decisions regarding their recovery.

Remember, the goal is to create a safe and supportive environment for the person in recovery. By choosing your words carefully, you can help them feel understood and validated in their journey toward sobriety.

Expressing Support and Encouragement

When speaking to someone who is sober, it is important to offer words of encouragement. Let them know that you are proud of them for their hard work and dedication to their sobriety. Some examples of encouraging phrases include:

  • “You are doing an amazing job.”
  • I am so proud of you for staying sober.”
  • “Keep up the great work.”
  • “Let’s gooooo!”

Remember to be sincere and specific in your praise. Let them know exactly what you admire about their sobriety journey.

Offering Compassion and Understanding

It is also important to offer compassion and understanding to someone who is sober. Let them know that you are there for them and that you understand the challenges they face. Some ways to offer compassion and understanding include:

  • “I am here to support you in any way I can.”
  • “I understand that this is a difficult journey, but I believe in you.”
  • “You are not alone in this.”
  • “You know where to find me.”

Remember to listen actively and without judgment. Offer empathy and validation for their experiences.

Avoiding Stigmatizing Language

Using person-first language and avoiding stigmatizing language can help to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and support the person in their recovery journey.

Person-First Language

When speaking with someone who is sober, it’s important to use person-first language. This means putting the person before their addiction. For example, say “a person in recovery” instead of “an addict.”

Using person-first language helps to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and emphasizes that a person is more than their addiction.

What Not to Say

It’s important to avoid stigmatizing language when speaking with someone who is sober. Avoid using derogatory terms such as “junkie” or “drunk.” These terms can be hurtful and can make the person feel ashamed of their addiction.

Instead, use neutral language that doesn’t place blame on the person, such as “substance use disorder” or “alcohol use disorder.”

It’s also important to avoid making assumptions about the person’s addiction. Don’t assume that the person is “cured” or that they can “just stop” using substances. Addiction is a complex disease, and recovery is a lifelong process. Instead, offer support and encouragement to the person in their journey towards sobriety.

Understanding the Recovery Process

Understanding the recovery process is crucial for supporting someone who is sober. It is important to be patient, non-judgmental, and supportive throughout their journey. Recovery is a process of growth and healing, and with the right support, anyone can achieve sobriety.

The Journey to Sobriety

The journey to sobriety is not a linear process. It is a unique and individual experience that varies from person to person. Recovery is a continuous process that requires patience, persistence, and support. It is important to understand that sobriety is not a destination but a journey that requires ongoing effort and commitment.

The Role of Treatment and Therapy

Treatment and therapy play a crucial role in the recovery process. Addiction recovery is a complex process that requires professional help.

Treatment and therapy can help individuals learn coping skills, develop healthy habits, and address underlying issues that contribute to addiction. It is important to find a treatment program that fits your individual needs and preferences.

Treatment and therapy can take many forms, including individual therapy, group therapy, and support groups. In addition to traditional therapy, alternative therapies such as art therapy, music therapy, and mindfulness meditation can also be beneficial.

The Recovery Process

The recovery process can be challenging, but it is also a time of growth and self-discovery. It is important to remember that recovery is a journey, not a destination. It is a process of learning, growing, and healing. Recovery is not just about stopping drug or alcohol use but also about developing a new way of life.

The recovery process can be broken down into several stages, including:

  • Pre-contemplation: The individual is not yet ready to consider a change.
  • Contemplation: The individual is considering change but is not yet committed to it.
  • Preparation: The individual is preparing to make a change.
  • Action: The individual is actively making changes to their behavior.
  • Maintenance: The individual is maintaining their new behavior and avoiding relapse.

Navigating Triggers and Temptations

When you’re spending time with someone who is sober, it’s important to be mindful of their triggers and temptations. Triggers are situations or events that can lead to a relapse, while temptations are things that can make it difficult to resist the urge to use substances.

One way to help someone navigate their triggers and temptations is to have an open and honest conversation about what they are. This can help you both be more aware of potential triggers and temptations and work together to avoid them.


If you’re not sure what someone’s triggers and temptations are, it’s okay to ask. Just be sure to do so in a non-judgmental way and respect their boundaries if they’re not comfortable sharing.

It’s also important to be mindful of your own behavior. Avoid using substances around someone who is sober, and be conscious of your own language and actions. If you’re unsure if something might be triggering or tempting, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Remember, abstinence is a personal choice, and everyone’s journey is different. While you can offer support and encouragement, it’s ultimately up to the individual to stay sober. By being mindful of triggers and temptations, you can help create a safe and supportive environment for your loved one.

Building Trust and Maintaining Boundaries

Trust and boundaries are two of the most important aspects of any relationship, especially when it comes to supporting someone who is sober. Building trust takes time and effort, but it is essential to the success of the relationship.

One way to build trust is by being honest and transparent in your communication. Let the person know that you are there to support them, but also make it clear that you have your own boundaries and limitations.

Maintaining boundaries is equally important. It is essential to set clear boundaries from the beginning to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts. Be clear about what you are willing and able to do to support the person and what you are not. It is okay to say no if something makes you uncomfortable or goes beyond your limits.

Remember that trust and boundaries go hand in hand. When you set clear boundaries, you are showing that you respect yourself and the other person. This, in turn, builds trust and strengthens the relationship. It is important to be consistent in your actions and words to maintain this trust.

When supporting someone who is sober, it is crucial to be mindful of their triggers and avoid them whenever possible. This could mean avoiding certain places, activities, or people that may trigger cravings or negative emotions. By being aware of these triggers, you can help the person stay on track and avoid relapse.

Building trust and maintaining boundaries is critical to supporting someone who is sober. Be honest and transparent in your communication, set clear boundaries, and be consistent in your actions to build trust. Be mindful of the person’s triggers and avoid them whenever possible to help them stay on track.

Supporting Relationships and Emotional Health

Supporting someone in recovery requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt to a new lifestyle. By prioritizing their sobriety, managing your own emotions, and seeking support when needed, you can help build a strong and healthy relationship with your loved one.

Navigating Relationships

You must be respectful and understanding of one’s journey to sobriety. Avoid pressuring them to drink or use substances and instead focus on finding activities that you both enjoy and that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. Remember that their sobriety is a priority, and be patient as they navigate their new lifestyle.

Managing Guilt and Anxiety

If you feel guilty about your past behavior or actions that may have contributed to your loved one’s addiction, it’s important to address those feelings. Acknowledge your mistakes and apologize if necessary, but also understand that it’s not your responsibility to fix everything. It’s important to prioritize your own emotional well-being and seek support if needed.

Anxiety is also a common emotion when supporting someone in recovery. It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your loved one about your concerns and fears, but also to respect their boundaries and decisions. Remember to take care of yourself and seek professional help if your anxiety becomes overwhelming.

Finding Emotional Support

Supporting someone in recovery can be emotionally taxing, so it’s important to find your own sources of emotional support. This could be through therapy, support groups, or simply spending time with friends and family who understand your situation. Remember that you are not alone and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Celebrating Sobriety Anniversaries

Celebrating sobriety anniversaries is an excellent way to show support for someone who is sober. It’s a celebration of their hard work and dedication to living a sober life. A sobriety anniversary is a significant milestone and should be treated as such.

It’s important to acknowledge the anniversary and let the person know how proud you are of them. You can do this by sending a card, giving a small gift, or taking them out for a meal. It’s essential to make the day special for them and show them how much you care.

When celebrating a sobriety anniversary, it’s important to avoid anything that may trigger the person. This includes alcohol and other substances. Instead, opt for activities that are fun and sober-friendly. This can include going to a movie, taking a hike, or going out for a fancy dinner.

Every person’s journey to sobriety is different. Some people may want to celebrate their sobriety anniversary with a big party, while others may prefer a more low-key celebration. It’s important to respect their wishes and celebrate in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

Finding Inspiration and Motivation

Approach the topic of sobriety with empathy and understanding. By offering support and encouragement, you can help someone who is sober feel empowered and motivated to continue on their journey of recovery.

Drawing Inspiration from Books and Movies

One way to find inspiration and motivation when talking to someone who is sober is to suggest books or movies that have uplifting stories about overcoming addiction.

These can be great conversation starters and can help the person feel understood and supported. Some popular books and movies in this category include “A Million Little Pieces,” “The Recovering,” “The Anonymous People,” “28 Days,” and “Clean and Sober.”

Finding Motivation and Happiness

It’s important to remind someone who is sober that they are not alone and that many people have gone through similar struggles and come out stronger on the other side. Encourage them to focus on the positive aspects of their life and to find activities that bring them joy and fulfillment.


This can include hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or volunteering in their community. By finding motivation and happiness in their life, they can continue to stay sober and achieve their goals.


In conclusion, talking to someone who is sober can be challenging, but it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Remember that sobriety is a personal choice, and it’s not up to you to convince someone to change their lifestyle.

Be respectful and non-judgmental. Avoid making assumptions about why someone is sober or pressuring them to drink.

Listen actively and ask questions. Show interest in the person’s journey and offer support if they need it.

Offer alternatives to drinking. Suggest activities that don’t involve alcohol, such as going to a movie or trying a new restaurant.

By following these tips, you can have a positive and meaningful conversation with someone who is sober. Remember, everyone’s journey is different, and it’s important to approach the situation with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

How has your life changed since becoming sober?

Since becoming sober, my life has changed in many positive ways. I am more present and mindful in my daily life, and I am able to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with others. I am also able to better manage my emotions and make healthier choices for myself.

What has been the biggest challenge in your sobriety journey?

The biggest challenge in my sobriety journey has been learning how to cope with difficult emotions without turning to alcohol or other substances. It takes time and practice to develop healthy coping mechanisms, but it is crucial for maintaining sobriety.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting their sobriety journey?

My advice to someone starting their sobriety journey would be to take it one day at a time and to seek support from others who understand what they are going through. It is also important to be kind and patient with yourself, as recovery is a process, and there will be ups and downs.

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