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Advice from Normies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Cheryl Steinberg

Our normal friends, whom we affectionately call “normies,” are generally well-meaning when they try to give us advice. However, it’s important to know when that advice is helpful and when it’s harmful. Here it is, advice from normies: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, the good:

“Be gentle with yourself”

Talking to normies about the things you’re going through can be really helpful at times because they can give you some outside-of-the-program perspective. They will tell you that not everything you experience is because of the disease of addiction, that it’s stuff normies go through, too, and therefore to not be so hard on yourself.

“You’re really just getting started”

It’s not fair to compare yourself to others who have been working at it, as in their career, and life, in general. Appreciate what you have and what you’ve done. Acknowledge the things that you’ve accomplished so far.

“You don’t have to make a big deal out of being sober”

Most people don’t really think it’s such a big deal that you don’t drink – there are actually a lot of people who are not in recovery – aka normies – that choose not to drink.

The bad:

“Just don’t go anywhere there’s a bar, etc.”

Oh my god, seriously? What kind of life would that be? If you had to avoid everything that could even remotely be associated with alcohol or other things? That would mean that you couldn’t go to virtually every restaurant – because there’s a bar, and you couldn’t attend concerts or even watch TV – because of all the alcohol commercials.

“You should talk to So-and-So, they’re totally an alcoholic/addict”

There are three issues with this bit of advice that I can identify. First, there’s the ‘attraction rather than promotion’ tradition of the 12 step fellowships. Then there’s the general consensus among us in recovery that it’s not our place to diagnose anyone else that is, it’s not up to us to decide whether someone else is an alcoholic or addict. Also, how much of a turn-off would it be if that person was told by their loved one to call some stranger about their ‘problem?’

The ugly:

Just smoke weed

This bit of “advice” is uttered quite a bit by people who (obviously) don’t understand addiction and recovery. This is the worst kind of ‘advice’ to give someone with a substance abuse disorder, such as addiction. They might think that, because your DOC was heroin, then heroin was your problem. You can smoke weed or drink alcohol as long as you don’t touch heroin.

“Just don’t do it/just stop”

Control yourself. This is clearly from the point-of-view of someone who doesn’t understand the nature of addiction. Willpower and self-control is simply not enough. Pretty much all of us in recovery got to a point in our addiction that we sincerely wanted to stop but simply couldn’t.

It’s probably been enough time, you can have one drink

Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder and all three of those adjectives explain why this bit of advice is so completely off-base and detrimental. Someone with the disease of addiction can’t have just one drink. “Chronic” means long-term; “progressive” means that it gets worse over time but also that your addiction basically picks up right where you left off when you had some sobriety (this has less to do with the amount you first start using, due to a lowered tolerance, and more to do with the level of unmanageability in your life); and “relapsing” essentially means that you will always need to be on-guard and that having “just one drink” is a relapse in and of itself.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, help is available. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available around the clock to answer your questions. You are not alone.

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