Let’s name it: 2020 has brought at least some level of despair to, well, everyone. We’ve all felt heightened levels of isolation, economic hardship, and grief (if you haven’t, please DM us with your secret). We “cope” a million different ways—with shopping sprees, incessant Instagram scrolling and One Tree Hill reruns. And often, many of us resort to over-consuming alcohol and drugs for a momentary reprieve.
In fact, statistics show that, now more than ever, people are turning to—and overusing—substances and destructive behaviors for “relief.” (The American Medical Association notes that more than 40 states have reported increased rates of substance abuse and overdose this year.) If this sounds like someone you know and love, you are not alone. And if you’re at a loss for what to say, we’re with you there, too.
For guidance on how to talk to a friend struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), we sat down with recovery coach and interventionist Frances Murchison, sober for over 30 years. She reminds us that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for SUD, nor a definitive manual on how to support a friend battling addiction. That said, there is universal importance in being intentional with our language. As with any conflict, we grow when we communicate with compassion, empathy, and love and without prescriptiveness, blame or shame. And while Murchison primarily recommends seeking professional help, she does offer us a framework for these conversations. Here, seven helpful things you can say to a friend who is struggling with SUD—plus two you should probably avoid.