How to Be a Jerk to Someone Who Is In Recovery

Chances are pretty good that you know someone who is an alcoholic.  Hopefully, they are also already in recovery and working on a lifetime of sobriety.  Also hopefully, you reacted to their announcement perfectly, and have never taken a wrong step during their road to recovery.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for a lot of people.  There are a lot of things that people do with the best of intentions, but when those actions are viewed from the perspective of the alcoholic, they’re bad.

Here are the things you should NOT do if you are friends with an alcoholic.

Tell Them They Aren’t Really An Alcoholic

When they tell someone that they’re in alcoholic and they will stop drinking, these are the reactions that they get:

  • It’s about time you figured it out
  • You’re just being dramatic
  • You’re not that bad (because then I’d be an alcoholic too)
  • You have to stop drinking forever or just for a while?

If someone shares their struggle with you, the worst thing you can do is argue with them and/or tell them that their drinking isn’t that bad.

If they’ve decided to stop drinking, their drinking was bad enough FOR THEM to decide it’s a problem.  They probably already feel bad about it.  Think about it, have you ever seen anyone realize they were an alcoholic and jump up and down because they’re excited about it?

If someone shares their problem with you, say something that is supporting to them.  If you tell them that they’re overreacting, you’re being a jerk.

Always Meet Them in a Bar

Most people in recovery need to be really careful the first few years of recovery about being around things that might trigger them.  Being in a bar is a really, really big trigger.

You don’t have to avoid bars forever when you’re with them, but in the early days, if you always force them to meet you in a bar before you move on to your other plans for the evening, you’re being a jerk.

Say Stupid Stuff About AA

If you have questions, or if you actually know something about AA, feel free to bring it up.

However, too many people make assumptions about AA and start saying stuff that will annoy the alcoholic, or even make them mad.

Some of the common assumptions people make about those who attend AA meetings are:

  • You are suddenly super religious
  • You have been brainwashed
  • You bought into 100% of the program and think it’s perfect

Don’t say those things.

Along the same lines, don’t feel sorry for them because they “have” to go to meetings.  Going to AA is a choice, and they’re going because they think it’s something they need/want to do for themselves to live a healthier life.

It’s difficult for anyone who is in recovery, just to be in recovery.  If you say stupid stuff about the program they’re using to stay sober, you’re being a jerk.

Talk About the Importance of Willpower… a Lot

Being an alcoholic, and wanting to stop drinking isn’t just about having the willpower to stop.  If it was that easy, everyone who wanted to stop drinking, would be able to easily do it.

Addiction is a serious thing and it prolonged drinking can actually alter your brain.

If you talk about having the willpower to stop drinking, even if you’re praising them about it, you’re minimizing the problem and you’re being a jerk.

Micro-manage the Alcoholic

Sometimes, people try too hard to help the alcoholic stay sober.  That may include contacting all your family members before an upcoming event to remind them that you’re not drinking.  Other times, it may mean that your friends go early to where you’re supposed to meet them so they can have a drink before you get there.

The intentions in both of those cases are noble.  But when there is that much effort being put into controlling the circumstances “for” you, it makes the alcoholic feel like they’re being controlled and managed.

You have to let the alcoholic deal with these situations in a normal manner, on their terms.  If you don’t, you’re kind of being a jerk.

Assume the Alcoholic Wants Non-alcoholic Drinks

Some people drink for the taste, but that isn’t the case for most alcoholics.  In fact, sometimes the taste of these non-alcoholic versions is enough of a reminder to trigger a relapse.

It’s perfectly ok to ask if they want the non-alcoholic versions, but if you automatically order if for them, you’re being a jerk.


People who are in recovery need the support of their friends and family.  They also need those friends to be informed about HOW to give that support.  Now that you know the things to avoid, you know that you won’t be a jerk.

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