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Hello, My Name Is: How to Explain your Addiction and Recovery to Others

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ~ Criss Jami There is no question that addiction recovery is a long, hard process. Thankfully, there are many treatment programs and support groups that can help you overcome your addiction and get you on the right path. However, one of the most difficult parts of recovery for some is in acknowledging to others that you are an addict, and sharing your recovery with others. There is no right or wrong way to go about this, but it is a necessary part of addiction recovery. Addiction is maintained in secrecy; recovery is achieved in the open light of day.

Explaining Your Addiction to Others Requires Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction and Recovery

Drug and alcohol addiction is often accompanied by either a real or perceived social stigma. You may feel unable to share your past struggles with addiction, let alone your current road to recovery, because of a fear of reprisal, moral judgment, or social distancing. For a variety of reasons, the public as a whole maintains a stigma against those struggling to overcome their addictive disorders. As Dr. Richard Juman writes, “Despite widespread agreement that addiction is best understood as a complicated behavioral-biological scenario that requires treatment, the system is hard-wired to prolong stigmatization.” In fact, addiction is not a symptom of moral defect or a lack of character. But how can you overcome these stigmas in order to explain your addiction and recovery to others?

The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that addiction, alcohol and drug abuse are laden with the “complex interactions of biological, social, environmental, and developmental factors.”

Overcoming the stigma associated with addiction is as much a mental challenge as it is a social one. Consider the following ways you can combat drug addiction stigmas on your road to recovery:

  • Start treatment. Showing others that you have entered into recovery is a great way to exhibit how addiction can be overcome.
  • Practice self-acceptance. Acknowledging your disease as chronic (but treatable) allows you to build the strength you need to recover. This strength allows you more freedom to tell others about your recovery.
  • Show, don’t tell. People may have prejudged your recovery based on your past actions. When they show fear, choose to show kindness. Show them how much recovery has changed you.
  • Speak out. Overcoming stigma in your personal relationships is one thing, but keep up the good fight by educating those who may not know addiction is a chronic disease and overcoming the stereotypes associated with addicts.

Create Strategies for Explaining Your Addiction and Recovery to Others

Learning to share your addiction and road to recovery with others, especially with loved ones, is a highly personal process. As noted above, there is not a right or wrong way to go about it. The most important thing to keep in mind as you tell others about something so personal is your own recovery and health. You should ensure that you are comfortable, that you are honest, and that you are getting the support you need. Here are several strategies to consider for opening up about your addiction to those around you:

  • If you feel uncomfortable sharing your addiction, consider talking it through with a counselor first.
  • Make sure that you not only acknowledge, but also apologize, for behaviors and actions caused by your addiction in the past.
  • Let others know about what situations, actions, or words can be triggers for your addiction so they can help you on the road to recovery
  • Be completely honest. Now is not the time to downplay the role addiction has in your life, nor to sugarcoat its effects on your actions and relationships.
  • Ask others to help keep you accountable as you work through recovery and overcome your addiction
  • Don’t feel as though you have to tell everyone, all the time, about your addiction.

Sharing With Others is a Crucial Element of Moving Forward with Your Recovery from Addiction

It is extremely difficult to overcome addiction on your own. As you begin opening up about your addiction with others, it is important to seek out the professional support and treatment that you need. Support groups and treatment programs can help you not only overcome your addiction but deal directly with the effects that it has had on your life and relationships. Do not try to go at this alone; share your addiction and your recovery with those around you, and take the first step forward.