Recently I had the opportunity to sit in a group with patients who talked about how they talked about their recovery with their families and friends, as well as what they chose to share. As I listened to them it occurred to me that in my own recovery I am in a rather unique or at least uncommon position. That position is one of being able to talk about my addiction with whomever I want and not have to be concerned about what people think or any concern that it could have any real impact in a negative way on my life.
I’m an addictions counselor. My having this disease of addiction is a benefit not a hindrance in my field. However, due to the still unfathomable belief that’s prevalent in our society about addiction, that says it’s somehow a choice, it can be difficult for many people to be open and honest. Moreover, several of our patients have to deal with the added ignorant stigma that medication-assisted treatment is just trading one addiction for another. So with that in mind I wanted to talk about how a person in recovery can talk about it with other people.
1.Choose appropriate people to share with and make smart decisions about what to share- As said previously I tell whoever I choose to and at times I am sure my attitude is seen as one of “I dare you to say anything.” While that might not be the best tact to take, I’m not concerned with the backlash. Other people aren’t that lucky.
First off make sure you’re sharing with someone to whom the information is relevant. If you had cancer would you tell everyone? Probably not. Same thing goes for addiction. Does it have any relevance for your co workers, softball team members, the other parents at the PTA meeting. I’m guessing not. The people who you share with should be ones who are familiar with what you have gone though and who have a vested interest in seeing you be successful.
Don’t share with people who just know are gonna be judgmental, minimize what you are trying to do, or worse would be happier if you were back in active addiction (think old using friends). It’s not your job to lead the world to recovery unless you feel compelled to do so. Your success is all the proof the rest of us need to show that this thing works.
2. Focus on your successes and progress, not on the past- The whole point of being in recovery is to make progress, not slide back to where you came from. You might find people questioning your recovery efforts, including what it is you are doing for it. Examples are “You still go to those meetings?,” or “When are you gonna be done with that treatment thing?,” to “Your still taking that medication?” A quick answer for any of those is “Well, you’ve seen the alternative. You like that better?” You can also remind them that you are working on treating a disease and that you are doing what you need to do to keep that disease in remission. In the end, people who truly have your back aren’t going to care how you get better, just that you are.
3. Pick your battles- Reiterating what I said before, some people just don’t get it or don’t care. You are going to drive yourself back into addiction trying to get certain people in your life on board with what you are doing. Here’s a harsh reality. You’re better off without those people. Time to cut loose dead weight holding you back and move on. With some people that is harder then others. What it comes down to with your recovery is this…either they’re with you or against you.
4. Get some support in talking about it if you need to.- Maybe you aren’t quite sure how to answer some of the questions or objections that people have in regards to your recovery. Well support comes in all kinds of different forms. Do you know someone who has been through this, and might have a better understanding of what it is you are trying to say. Try asking them for advice. Another option is having a professional who can offer advice or even talk with people about your recovery. This one is constantly confusing to me, but a person can talk to their family, friends, or loved ones, tell them the exact thing I would have said, and it seems to go in one ear and out the other or they don’t want to believe it. Those same people come to a group session here, the guy with all the initials behind his name says the same thing and all of the sudden they get it or believe it. I know it can be hard when you are faced with people who can’t see a simple truth due to some long held belief of their own, but if myself or another addiction professional telling them the same thing that you are, is what helps them get on board with what you are trying to accomplish, then bring it on!
Talking to people about your recovery can be difficult at times, but I assure you having the support and understanding of people in your life is worth it.
At Recovery Works NW we have a team of doctors and clinicians that have decades of combined experience dealing with the disease of addiction. We are always happy to talk with anyone in your support network about this disease and appropriate methods to treat it. We have a New Patient Orientation on the third Saturday of each month where one of our amazing doctors comes to speak to the group and answer questions. So if you’re a current patient, feel free to attend and bring your loved ones and friends.
If you or a loved one is currently struggling with addiction issues please call us. We’ll be here for you, even if you feel like no one else is. All you have to do is call or connect with us through our website at Recoveryworksnw.com.