Addiction Etiquette: What to Say to Someone in Recovery

The road to recovery from drugs and alcohol is challenging and rocky. Modern Manners Guy interviews addiction specialist Zach Snitzer to explain the best ways to handle the recovering addict in your life.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #330

A Modern Manners Guy Facebook friend emailed me nervously about how to handle herself at a one-on-one dinner with a cousin who recently left a rehabilitation center for drugs and alcohol. Her biggest concern was that she did not want to offend her cousin by inadvertently saying, doing, or not doing something. 

The same week, I received a few other emails and Twitter messages about this very topic. .

This is a serious, sensitive topic that needs some extra love and attention. That's why I've enlisted an old friend - a professional in the field of recovery - to join the Modern Manners Guy show this week.

Please meet Zach Snitzer, the co-founder and director of business development at the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. Zach is going to help answer some of the questions I’ve received on this topic.

Situation #1: What to Do When You're on a Date with a Recovering Addict

Listener Maggie wrote me an email, saying:

“I have a blind date with a guy who I just found is 4 months sober. I’ve never dated anyone in recovery before and I’m not sure how to handle dining with him? What do I do?"

Don’t worry, Maggie, it’s OK to be nervous.  As much as we all want to put on a front and say, “It’s no biggie,” let’s be honest, it is a biggie. After all, this is someone who you may end up in a long-term romantic relationship with.

And since it's a date, you want to make a good impression, which is a mixture of being yourself and also bringing your best self to the evening. The last thing you’d ever want to do is offend. That's why Maggie was concerned about whether or not she could ask questions about her date's recovery? Would it be OK for her to order a drink? Should she just ignore it and act like nothing happened?

Zach, tell us your advice:

Zach Snitzer: Maggie, it's certainly OK to talk about your date’s situation, I would even encourage it. Remember, the purpose of a blind date is to meet someone you like and possibly have a relationship with them. Inevitably, their recovery will be a big part of that potential relationship. Everyone is different, so I would recommend Maggie ask her date if ordering a drink is OK. I would suggest asking open, honest questions about his recovery and respecting boundaries that he may not want to broach. This shows that she is interested and supportive. I certainly would not suggest ignoring the recovery altogether.

Situation #2: How to Handle a Recovering Addict at a Dinner Party

Listener Tim emailed me with a very interesting situation:

“I am hosting a dinner party for 25 friends. One of these friends is newly sober. I would never want to make her feel uncomfortable, but if I don’t serve any wine or beer, she and everyone will know it’s because of her. What do I do?" 

See also: Dinner Party Etiquette: How to Be a Good Host


This is a great question. Here we are dealing with what it means be a good host. This includes providing good food and drinks and making sure the environment is comfortable for everyone there. You would never want to alienate someone because of their dietary or lifestyle choices.  

Zach, what do you think about this one?