Talking to loved ones about your past struggles with addiction can be cathartic. As the weight of this secret is lifted from your shoulders, your stress levels and anxiety may decrease. While they may be shocked at first, your family likely will support you and offer words of encouragement.
Revealing your situation to friends or co-workers may be trickier. Your bond with them probably isn’t as strong as the bond you share with family members. They may be less understanding. You may fear how they will react, what they will say and whether discussing your past will affect your job.
It can be a scary thought. But revealing your past battles with substance abuse could strengthen your relationships and build trust among you, your friends and your co-workers. Talking to people about your recovery may increase your self-esteem and help you feel more comfortable sharing your experiences in the future.
Wait a Few Months Before Telling Them
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many people new to recovery experience relapse. So it may be best to establish a routine to strengthen your sobriety — such as engaging in aftercare services — and let some time pass before sharing your new lifestyle to friends or co-workers. If you reveal your past and then relapse, you could lose the trust of these individuals.
Your past is your past. If you no longer drink or use drugs, be proud of it. Do not express shame or guilt. Make it clear that you have overcome substance use problems and that you now have a new outlook on life.
Don’t Spill Too Many Details
It can be helpful to let people know that you once struggled with substance abuse and that you’re now in a better place. But you don’t have to talk about the details of your past. You don’t have to discuss other outcomes of your addiction — such as family problems, physical consequences or co-occurring disorders — if talking about these subjects makes you feel uncomfortable.
Educate Them on the Realities of Addiction
Many people do not understand that addiction is a disease that leads to compulsive behaviors. They may think that drug or alcohol use is merely a choice. By talking to friends and co-workers about recovery, you may help reduce the stigma associated with addiction. And more people may understand the struggles you experience each day.
You Don’t Have to Tell Everyone
You do not need to tell co-workers you barely know that you’re recovering from addiction. Stick to the people with whom you are most comfortable. They may be more likely to understand your situation and less likely to judge you. As you slowly begin to open up more about your recovery, you will feel more comfortable discussing your situation with others.
While it is a big step to talk about your recovery with friends and co-workers, some people may not sympathize with you. They may judge you and give you uncomfortable looks. And, in some cases, friendships will end.
Do not let this discourage you. Talking about your past substance abuse problems and your recovery can allow you to speak more openly about your life. It can also help normalize addiction recovery. Discussing your recovery may be uncomfortable at first, but it has numerous benefits.