Three Little Words

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Words are kind of my thing. As a writer, teacher, and English major, I love playing around with language, finding just the right word to bring life to an idea or thought. I especially love when I use a word my kids don’t know—I’ll admit, I hang onto every bit of superiority I can muster now that they’re all adults. 

Yet, as with most things, sometimes my love of words has a downside—as in when I talk something to death when I should just state my case and let it be. It’s almost as though subconsciously I feel that if I can say what I need to say in at least seventeen different ways, one of them will hit home to my intended target. 

Imagine being on the receiving end of that when you’re fresh out of rehab, trying to learn how to be human, how to live in society, and even how to live in your own head again. Ugh.  

I can’t specifically recall the conversations I had with my son both during his active addiction and after he returned home from rehab, but I know that more than a few of them involved way too many words.  

Many during his active addiction were circuitous arguments that seemed to have no beginning and worse, no end. There was no making sense to someone high on drugs, but I found myself trying—repeatedly—and failing miserably every time. Perhaps that was the reason I felt the need to hammer home my concerns and ask questions when he returned home sober; maybe he would finally listen and understand. 

Either way, I should have stopped. We weren’t listening to one another. Too many words were just getting in the way of hearing and understanding. 

When I finally stopped talking, I found that I could get my messages across with far less. In fact, I now focus on three little words to guide all of my thoughts and actions and I use them with others: kind, honest, and responsible. 

Three little words that completely sum up how we all should behave and treat each other. They encompass everything that is required to be a good citizen of the world, no matter how big or small that world might be. 

When dealing with a loved one suffering from addiction, know that their mind is jumbled. Even in early sobriety, too many words, which translate into too many demands, can overwhelm, threatening to knock even the best-intentioned off course. Keep your rules, boundaries, and concerns simple. Hold your loved one to simple standards—be kind, honest and responsible. That’s really what we all need, isn’t it? 

Kind, honest and responsible. Three little words that speak volumes.  

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon