One of the hardest aspects of pursuing life without addiction is determining how much to share with others. There are many situations when it’s evident you’re following a different path.
It’s important to remember that ownership over your recovery story gives you agency to understand what the truth means to you, what questions you’ll answer if disclosure is the best option, and why you might share your sobriety journey.
Accept Your Past
Too often, there are myriad negative thoughts and emotions involving addiction. Sometimes, with good reason. If addictive behavior resulted in legal issues, family difficulties, or serious health concerns, those and other complications require careful analyzation, evaluation, and acceptance.
The techniques you learn through group, individual, and experiential therapy while in an inpatient rehabilitation facility help you deal with emotions such as shame, blame, and guilt. This process allows you to acknowledge and accept the circumstances leading to and involving your addiction.
Once you identify the root cause contributing to addictive behavior, your healing begins. This becomes a powerful platform to share your story with understanding, compassion, and confidence.
Assess the Reasons for Disclosure
Feeling comfortable in your skin allows you to face the various situations that require you to discuss your history of addiction. Consequently, prioritizing disclosure may be necessary in the following situations:
- Many people have to reveal their condition if they took time from work to enter treatment and are returning to that job.
- If someone is choosing to date again and wants to be honest with a new partner, a frank conversation may be necessary to establish healthy boundaries.
- Certain health conditions require full disclosure about past drug and alcohol use if there’s the possibility of complications, or if a particular course of treatment requires medication.
Sober living allows you to make better choices. While you have nothing to hide, you also have the right to privacy. So, other circumstances might be on more of a need-to-know basis. For example:
- If you’ve struggled with impulsive spending and some friends ask you to join a shopping spree, this might be a trigger for you. If you’re not ready to share the reason, it might be easier to say no to the invitation.
- Certain food-centric events might make you uncomfortable while you’re healing from an eating disorder. A private conversation with the party host regarding your situation may put you at ease and allow you to follow a meal plan but still enjoy the social occasion.
- Going out with the gang from work for happy hour could be a lot of fun, even if you’re not drinking. Extending an offer to be the designated driver while sipping a tonic and lime doesn’t put you on the spot to explain more than you want.
The Freedom of Authenticity
Many people are concerned about the questions they’ll get if they open up about addiction. This is when you can trust the treatment foundation you’ve received to present your best self: not an image of perfection, nor a perception of who you think others want you to be.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence highlights people in recovery. The messages convey the importance of human beings recognizing challenges and moving beyond them. Here are just a few:
- “I’m a nurse. I lost everything to my addiction and spent four months in jail because I stole drugs from work. In the last 11 years I’ve worked my 12-step program as if my life depends on it, because it does. I regained my family’s respect, my nursing license, my hope, and am grateful for every day.” —Kristin, Wisconsin
- “The darkest days of my mental illness and addiction were spent in a bathroom throwing up and stuffing my mouth with food. My struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive and destructive behaviors began at too young of an age. I now make choices every day to stay positive. I own a business, am a therapist, and have high ambitions for my future that don’t involve limiting beliefs or behaviors. I’m free, I’m a survivor!” —Sarai, Arizona
- “While in the Army I was shot by a sniper, and stayed in the hospital for three months on a constant morphine drip. When I got out, I was prescribed morphine for my injuries but started to abuse my pills. What made me stop is the death of one of my best friends. We were all taking pills along with alcohol, and he died of heart failure. At the funeral, his mother asked me, ‘How did my son die?’ The pain in her eyes was a pain I didn’t want my mother to experience.” —David, Georgia
- “Addiction is not a choice, moral failing, or sign of weakness. And recovery can look like you and me. Today, I am using my voice to call attention to the health, happiness, and healing possible in recovery. My life is proof. It’s time to end shame and open up about recovery.” —Fay, California
There’s personal power in sharing your story, in a time that matters, controlled by you. This power allows you to connect with people struggling to overcome trials, or to educate individuals who only know the stigmas and myths of addiction.
When someone asks questions, simply be truthful. Answer to provide clarity and information. No shame, no regrets. Just a human being in a constant cycle of becoming.
At Cottonwood Tucson, we extend a treatment approach that offers people the opportunity to become creators of their reality through health and wellness. If you or someone you love needs this kind of attention, please reach out.
By Tracey L. Kelley