• Home Logo
  • what to say to someone in rehab
Concerned woman talks to her friend in rehab

What to Say to Someone in Rehab

If you have a friend or family member who is beginning the journey of addiction recovery, you might be wondering what to say to someone in rehab.

It isn’t uncommon to question what the best things are to say to someone when they are getting help for addiction, as we don’t want to offend, hurt, or trigger our loved one during this time.

Because this is a delicate season in someone’s life, it is important to be kind, caring, and supportive during your conversations.

Let’s take a closer look at some great conversation starters and quotes so you know what to say to a loved one who’s going through rehab.

There is hope!

Download our free Addiction Recovery Guide for Families and learn about addiction, how it’s treated, and how to heal for a more meaningful life.

Encouraging Words for Someone in Rehab

Friend puts reassuring hand on other friend’s shoulder

Are you wondering what to say to someone in recovery?

We asked 250 recovering drug and alcohol addicts what the most helpful thing a friend or family member could say to them during treatment. Some of the most common answers/themes were:

  • “Take it one day at a time”
  • “I/We still love you”
  • “I/We believe in you”
  • “I am/We are here for you”
  • “You can do this”

Here are some additional, tried-and-true words of encouragement for someone in rehab.

“I am really proud of you”

This is an incredibly supportive statement for someone in rehab to hear. Often, someone dealing with addiction has heard comments about their past failures or how disappointing their behavior was.

Telling your loved one you’re proud of them offers encouragement and acknowledges that you know the decision to enter rehab isn’t always an easy one. It shows that their decision to get help and get sober was a smart choice and that someone is recognizing the good choices they are making.

“You are not alone—I am here for you.”

It takes a lot of courage for someone to acknowledge they have an addiction and want to seek help for it. Depending on the type of rehab your loved one enters, most aspects of their everyday life will change – and that can be scary.

Most of us get uncomfortable when walking into an unknown situation, and the same is true for someone entering a rehab program. Even though your contact may be limited, especially for the first few weeks of the program, it can help your loved one to know you are there for them.

It isn’t uncommon for some people in rehab to feel estranged from their friends or family (possibly because of events or behaviors related to the addiction). Knowing someone is there for them can be a powerful boost during this time.

“Use this time to focus on your recovery.”

If you are wondering what to say to someone going to rehab, remind them to use this precious time wisely and focus on recovery. Though addiction can be associated with very selfish behaviors, some people will have a hard time focusing on themselves.

For instance, if a parent has decided to go into inpatient rehab, he or she might fixate on the fact that they are away from their children. Or someone might be worried about what they’re missing at work. These thoughts can be distracting, and steer focus away from recovery.

Rehab provides an excellent opportunity for your loved one to grow, become more self–aware, and mature into a better version of themselves – all things that will help them continue their recovery journey.

“What can I do to support you during this time?”

You might be wondering what you can do to help someone who is in rehab, and the best way to find out is to ask!

Sometimes, a friend or loved one may have very specific requests such as can you hold onto their mail, take care of a pet, water their plants, or let them keep their car at your house. Other times, they may not have a direct answer, and that is okay.

Just let them know you are able and willing to help – they just have to say the word. Knowing they have someone who cares and loves them may be all the support they need right now.

Inspiring Quotes about Getting and Staying Sober

Inspiring picture of a person summiting a mountain top

Here are some proud sober quotes you can share with a loved one in rehab.

“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there. Sobriety is possible.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream. Recovery opens up endless possibilities.” — C.S. Lewis

“The only way to great work is to love what you do. Stay sober, and find passion.” – Steve Jobs

“Remember just because you hit bottom doesn’t mean you have to stay there.” – Robert Downey Jr.

“If you can quit for a day, you can quit for a lifetime.” – Benjamin Alire Saenz

“Somebody once asked me how I define sobriety, and my response was ‘liberation from dependence.’” — Leslie Jamison

“Sobriety is a journey, not a destination.” – Proverb

“There’s not a drug on Earth that can make life meaningful.” – Sarah Kane

What NOT to Say to Someone in Rehab

Wondering what not to say to someone in rehab? We asked 250 recovering addicts, what’s the least helpful thing a friend or family member could say?

Surprisingly, many respondents said “nothing,” as in saying nothing at all and avoiding communication with someone in rehab is one of the least helpful things you can do. So, even though it may feel uncomfortable, it is important that you reach out to your loved ones in treatment and reassure them of your support.

Now, there are certain topics and phrases to avoid when talking to someone in rehab, like:

  1. “When will you be cured?” – This phrase can put unnecessary pressure and feelings of inadequacy on your loved one. Remember, there is no cure for addiction, and recovery is a lifelong process. Instead, reassure them they have your support, today and for years to come.
  2. “Why did you end up in rehab?” – This question is invasive and judgmental and may not be any of your business. Besides, the reasons for why someone is in rehab are less important than the fact that they are taking steps to improve their life. Instead, reassure them that you’re there for them when they need someone to listen or talk to.
  3. “Why can’t you just quit? It’s not that hard.” – Recovery is a complex and challenging process. And your loved one has probably tried to quit before but was not successful. Minimizing the difficulty of recovery is dismissive and unsupportive. Instead, acknowledge their efforts and express confidence in their ability to succeed.
  4. “You’re lucky you’re getting a break/vacation.” – Rehab is NOT a break, and it is NOT a vacation. Rehab is hard work—some of the hardest work that you will ever do. Implying that they are not working at recovery or that they are getting a break may undermine their commitment to the rehab process. Instead, tell them you appreciate all their hard work.
  5. “Are you sure that you need to be in rehab?” – Questioning the necessity of rehab may undermine your loved one’s commitment to recovery. This is especially damaging to individuals who were pressured or forced to attend rehab. Instead, offer positive reinforcement of their decision.

Here are the top five topics to try to avoid when talking to someone in rehab:

  1. Drug or alcohol use stories, which can trigger cravings or negative emotions.
  2. Judgment or criticism, which can damage self-esteem and harm rehab prospects.
  3. Future expectations, which put pressure on the individual and increase stress.
  4. Weight or physical expectations, which can cause emotional distress.
  5. Unsolicited advice. It is better to listen actively and ask how you can provide support.

Here to Support You and Your Loved One

Knowing what to say to someone in rehab is crucial, as our words hold power and you do not want to cause someone to stumble or feel defeated. Just remember that your friend or loved one is going through a lot of changes and your support, encouragement, and patience can be very motivating for them to succeed.

If your loved one is not currently enrolled in rehab, but they are struggling with an untreated substance use disorder, what can you do? One of the best things is to encourage them to attend treatment.

Legacy Healing Center is dedicated to helping your loved one achieve lasting sobriety so they can live a meaningful life.

We know addiction affects the mind, body, and soul, which is why we take a holistic approach to treatment. The key treatments we provide include the right psychotropic medications, cutting-edge clinical therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and aftercare programs.

To learn more about our inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, contact us or call 888-534-2295, anytime.

What to Say to Someone in Rehab FAQs

How can I show my support without being intrusive or making unrealistic promises?

Knowing how to support someone in rehab can be difficult if you are unprepared. Here are nine things you can do to support someone in rehab without being intrusive or making unrealistic promises:

  1. Practice active listening without pressuring them to share information.
  2. Respect their privacy by not asking intrusive questions about rehab or the reasons behind their stay.
  3. Send positive messages of support and let them know you believe in them.
  4. Offer practical assistance, such as driving them to treatment or looking after their home while they’re away.
  5. Educate yourself about addiction and recovery to better understand their journey.
  6. Respect their boundaries and let them share only when and what they want.
  7. Attend supportive events that are organized by the rehab facility.
  8. Avoid enabling behaviors, and only provide healthy, beneficial support.
  9. Celebrate milestones, even seemingly small ones.

What are some things I should avoid saying that might discourage someone in rehab?

Here are some things that might discourage someone in rehab if you say them:

  • “Just snap out of it.”
  • “It’s not that hard.”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “You let everyone/anyone/me down.”
  • “Why can’t you just control yourself/your substance use?
  • “I don’t think you can do it.”
  • “You’re never going to change.”
  • “Have you actually learned your lesson?”
  • “I thought you were better/stronger than this.”
  • “There’s no point.”
  • “You’re not strong/committed/good enough.”
  • “You’re just going to relapse (again)”
  • “I told you so.”
  • “This is your fault.”
  • “You deserve this.”

Is it okay to talk about a person’s addiction with them?

In many circumstances, it is appropriate to talk about a person’s addiction with them. However, there are times when it is not appropriate, and doing so always requires sensitivity and consideration.

Here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when talking to someone about their addiction.

  • Choose the right setting, ideally a private and comfortable one.
  • Ask for permission before initiating the conversation.
  • Make it clear that they can share as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.
  • Use non-judgmental, empathetic language.
  • Choose an appropriate time, not during moments of stress or tension.
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Express concern where necessary, but always avoid criticism.
  • Educate yourself beforehand so that you can approach the topic with sensitivity.
  • Avoid making any assumptions.
  • Offer healthy and appropriate support.
  • Avoid being an enabler or minimizing the seriousness of any issues.
  • Respect their privacy and do not pry further if they are uncomfortable sharing.
  • Be patient and understanding and wait for them to open up on their own.