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What to Say to Someone Going into Rehab

When a friend or loved one finally decides to go into rehab for their substance use disorder, you want to be the most encouraging person you can be. However, there are still myths and misconceptions about the disease of addiction, and while you may have the best intentions, saying certain encouraging things may have the opposite effect. In this article, we will discuss what to say to someone going into rehab to give what encouragement you can offer.

10 Minutes Read | Published Oct 02 2023 | Updated Jan 24 2024

Read more words or encouragement in this article. Click here.

Do Some Research

What to say to someone going into rehab becomes much easier if you do a little research into how addiction works and what treatment consists of. Addiction isn’t a choice, but rather a mental disorder. That’s why one person may become an addict while another person doesn’t, even though they had the same amount of a drug in a specific period.

Educate yourself on the factors and causes of addiction, such as the following outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  • Biological factors – Genes account for roughly half of a person’s addiction risk. These are things such as their gender, mental disorders, and ethnicity.
  • Development – Even though taking drugs at any time in your life can lead to an addiction, studies reveal that the earlier a person starts to abuse drugs or alcohol, the more at risk they are of developing an addiction. This is caused by substance abuse negatively affecting natural development of the brain.
  • Environmental – These are all of the factors surrounding a person that may influence them, such as peer pressure, lack of parental guidance, exposure to drugs and alcohol, their quality of life, and their family.

The ultimate purpose of drug addiction treatment is to help an addict refrain from compulsive drug-seeking behavior. While there isn’t a cure for the disease, there are ways to manage its symptoms, as with other chronic diseases such as asthma and hypertension.

What to Say to Someone Going into Rehab

Addicts are often filled with fear of the unknown and stressed by the idea of not being able to abuse drugs and alcohol anymore. The following section explores words of encouragement for drug addicts for when they first decide to go into rehab. It can be used as a guideline for what to say, allowing you to add your personal touch.

“I’m here for you”

As a person who encourages their sobriety, one of the most important words of encouragement for drug addicts is just to let them know that you are there for them whenever they feel like they need to talk to someone, even though contact may be limited during the initial stages of recovery.

“Do what you need to, I’ll be here when you get out”

As a friend, one of the fears that addicts may have before entering into a rehab program is that they will lose contact with their friends. This fear can be eased by words of encouragement for an alcoholic or drug addict that lets them know that you will still be there for them once they finish with the program.

“I’m getting help, too”

What to say to someone going into rehab can be that you are also getting help in the form of family therapy, rehab therapy, or therapy in general. In cases where there are co-dependent relationships, where there are family problems, or where you may have been involved in substance abuse, too, then letting the person know what you are also getting help can help to make them realize that they aren’t alone in their recovery goals.

“You make me proud”

Words of encouragement for an alcoholic or drug addict can be as simple as telling them that you are proud of them. They may have done things that are out-of-character due to the substance-seeking behavior present in addiction and that can fill people with shame and guilt when they start to get better through rehab. By letting them know that regardless of what happened in the past that you are still proud of them, it can assist in their motivation through recovery; knowing that they have you rooting for them.

What to Avoid Saying to an Addict

Along with encouragement for addicts, there are things that one should avoid saying to a person about to enter into rehab. Much of the following questions and statements that you can say come from uninformed point of view, which is why it’s important to understand more about the disease before saying something you regret.

The following section explores some of the things that you should avoid saying to someone about to enter rehab.

“Are you sure you’re an addict?”

While it may seem harmless, such a question can make the addict doubt their positive actions, and it might even make them avoid treatment. Addiction is a mental disease and you are likely not qualified to make that assessment. Encouragement for addicts should be about offering support for their choice to seek help; it’s likely that you don’t know the whole story or what they’ve had to deal with and questioning their choice to seek help is counterproductive.

“I know how you feel”

What to say to someone going into rehab should not be that you know exactly how they feel, unless you have personally been addicted, gone to rehab, and made a full recovery. Outside of this situation, you are just minimizing their experiencing and even discrediting it. Since addiction is a mental disorder, unless you personally experienced it, it’s impossible to truly understand their experience. Rather say something like “I can’t imagine what it must be like to deal with such a devastating disease. I will do what I can to help you in your recovery.”

“One last one?”

Possibly the worst thing that you can say to someone just starting their recovery is why don’t they have one last hit or drink. The addict has decided that their addiction has gone too far and that they aren’t able to control their substance use anymore. This is one of the biggest decisions they may make and you should be supportive of that. If you are one of the people that are encouraging them to have more alcohol or drugs, then you are not the friend they need right now, and you may also need to find help for substance use disorder yourself.


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bullet Mayo Clinic
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