Tips for Talking to Friends and Coworkers About Recovery and Addiction
Talking to your family, friends, and coworkers about your past addiction and your present recovery can be a daunting task. While the act of shedding light on this confession can bring relief, there is still a natural fear of judgment that lingers. Your family members may be shocked, but they are likely to support you and encourage your recovery process.
Uncovering your situation to friends and co-workers may be a little more complex. Not only is your bond with your family much stronger and more unconditional, but your co-workers and friends may be less understanding. You are more likely to be fearful of how your friends will react. Furthermore, you may be concerned about how your confessions will affect your job which can lead to a spiral of financial insecurities and fear of rejection.
Sharing the intimate details of your past struggles with addiction can be terrifying. However, the act of revealing your past issues with substance abuse could actually strengthen and inspire your relationships with your friends and co-workers. Talking to other people about your recovery will ultimately increase your self-esteem, ease your anxieties, establish trust, and ease your insecurities about sharing your experiences in the future. Let’s take a look at a few tips that will help you talk to your friends and co-workers about recovery.
Be Sure You are Ready to Discuss Your Recovery
First and foremost, it is extremely important for you to remember that you are not required by law to discuss your past troubles with substance abuse. You may be fearful of discussing your past due to the stigma of addiction, which is completely normal. If you feel uncomfortable telling your coworkers about your addiction and recovery – you don’t have to. If you are in a work setting in which alcohol is involved, you can simply tell your coworkers you are not in the mood to drink.
In regard to your friends, it is important to remember you aren’t required to divulge your recovery to them either. The stress of discussing your past addiction can be a major trigger for relapse. If you are not ready to discuss this intimate part of your life with your friends and coworkers, you do not have to.
Timing is Everything
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse is a part of the experience for individuals first getting sober. Due to the risk of relapse, it would be wise to maintain sobriety for an extended period of time before divulging information about your past addiction. The truth is, stigma still exists around addiction and many people do not understand that relapse is often a part of the recovery process. Take time to establish a healthy, consistent routine in your sobriety and allow time before you share your experiences in recovery.
Spare the Explicit Details
It can be extremely relieving to share your substance abuse issues with your friends and coworkers. However, you are not required to talk about the explicit details of your addiction. Many individuals recovering from substance abuse have experienced horrific events due to their drug and alcohol addiction. You do not have to discuss family problems, physical consequences, or even your co-occurring disorders with your friends and coworkers. These topics can be extremely sensitive and may lead to uncomfortable feelings. Keep the conversation direct and as transparent as you feel comfortable being.
Educate Your Friends and Coworkers on Addiction
One of the most effective ways to end the stigma and shed light on the disease of addiction is through education. Unfortunately, most people do not understand that addiction is a disease that leads to compulsive behaviors. Most members of society believe that addiction is merely a moral failing and comes down to the power of choice. Educating your friends and coworkers on the disease of addiction and recovery, will not only help you feel more comfortable talking to them about your addiction but may also help reduce the stigma associated with addiction.
Be Selective When Deciding Who You Share Your Recovery With
When making the decision to disclose your past addiction and recovery with coworkers and friends, you have the power to choose who you share these details with. You do not have to tell friends and coworkers whom you barely know that you are recovering from addiction. It is always best to share these confessions with the people you feel most comfortable telling. Friends and coworkers that know you best are more likely to understand, empathize, and less likely to judge you. As you slowly begin to talk about your addiction and your recovery, you will find that you feel more comfortable sharing.
Stay Connected With Your Sober Support
Most importantly, be confident. You should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about your addiction. Addiction is a disease and you should be proud of yourself for taking the appropriate steps to recover and for having the courage to speak about your past struggles. When making the decision to talk about your addiction and recovery, you should always stay connected to your sober support. After all, no one will understand your fears and anxieties like another alcoholic or addict will. Maintaining fellowship and participation in an alumni program can help cultivate the courage and support that you need to talk to your coworkers and friends about your addiction.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.