Many struggle dealing with whom to tell, “I’m an addict or alcoholic.” Many fear losing everything, even though they are clean and working on bettering themselves. This is a common feeling among many in early addiction recovery programs.
How do we rise above this? How do we feel comfortable being who we are, good, bad or just different? Here is something subtle yet truthful on the scenario:
“I AM AN ADDICT,” or “I’M AN ALCOHOLIC” are some of the hardest words to say when entering any sort of program or addiction recovery early on. I remember that the first program I attended I said, “Hi everyone, I’m just here.” The people listening said, “Hi just here.”
This problem of not being able to come to terms with what I’ve done or whom I was trying to admit to being was—and is—a hard notion for anyone to swallow.
The problem is deeply rooted in coming to life on life’s terms and personally battling with stigmas—whether or not we are truthful we admitting we have a problem. We're in constant fear that everyone around us will strip us of not just our dignity but things like our homes, finances, children, loved ones, trust, and commitment.
Many haven't been accustomed to giving themselves a name other than what they were born with. Most go by nicknames, but not addict or alcoholic. I never thought it would be so important to me to say the words I’m an addict everyday, but it keeps things in perspective (for me).
It’s okay to admit these things at programs and tables most would agree. But, when it comes to having to tell your friends, family, or a person that rely on you in other aspects that you are recovering it’s a scary feeling. How will they react? Will they strip you of your rights (whatever they may be in that situation)?
It’s truly a scary feeling to have to tell someone “I’m recovering.” So, they ask, “From what?”
How do you say I used to do meth?
My son is sitting right here with your son. How can this person I’m admitting my darkest parts to truly understand the reason, or give me safe ‘judgment’?
Who will prosecute me for this? Will they strip me of any dignity I feel that I have left? It’s all really scary!
I could lose it all—I feel—if someone else was to find out. The mother’s who put children in my care to play with my child could file suits against me, couldn’t they? Would they blame it on my past? I never know who will be trying to accuse me of this! It’s a feeling that I struggle with!
I’m not just a parent but I have a job, too! What if my employer I’ve been with for 10 years finds out that I was addicted for 6 of those years? Can this come back to haunt me and ruin my reputation? I could be discredited and never find a job ever again!
This isn’t to mention that my professors in school now trust me that I’m getting my work in on time! I can’t screw this up!
It’s an enormous amount of pressure not knowing whom to tell! How do I create a safety net for myself and come to understand who to trust with delicate issues if this part of my life that claimed me may come back to haunt me, even though I’m clean and sober now? I’m always worried about the past and it’s a struggle. How do I live a let go?
I feel like everyone is out to judge me! But, who is really judging me the most? “Myself.”
It doesn’t always affect me either. What would my dad’s corporate executives think if they found out his child has been doing things like sticking needles in his veins for a high?
I feel this could turn out bad! As the saying goes, “you win some and you lose some.” This is just a fact of life. Not everyone will understand, but it’s truly important to know that you are speaking to the right people about this.
How do you know that you are telling the right people? Who is even the “right people” to tell about this?
The people that need to hear it the most are usually the ones who have been there from the beginning. They will be the least judgemental because they’ve been seeing the addiction for years. If anything they will be the most relieved and willing to help.
Whether this person be a mom or dad, wife or husband, or your grown child, the ones closest to you have seen it the most. It will be hard to hear at first, but I think they could have already guessed you had a problem you were dealing with. This is just a starting point. there are many more who are wanting to help you in this journey. But a starting point is what most do not know.
Who do I tell first? I don’t want to do this alone, and most debate that for months into their early recovery.
I know I couldn’t have done it alone, but in the beginning I was too hurt to come out and say it directly. The first time I did I broke down in tears. The next thing that happened staggered me. I told my mom and she started crying, too and she said this: “Happy tears! I’m so proud of you admitting this to me! I’m here for you.”
Some take the route of telling everyone and anyone in their recovery about their addictions/alcoholism. Many programs urge telling everyone about your addiction problems but this isn’t always the correct approach (from the beginning).
As my sponsor once told me: “It’s not necessary to tell everyone, it’s just necessary to tell those who are everyone to you.”
I live by this code. I’m not exploiting my addiction or myself in that way. I’m not telling people who would have biased opinions of my addiction until I know they are ready to hear it and I am ready to tell it.
I tell myself and others going through this that I’m an addict/alcoholic plenty and that is a key aspect at any support group to saying: “Hi I’m NAME and I’m an addict.”
It isn’t just surrendering the first step and admitting it because they want you to give yourself a label or stigma. The reason we do this is because the mass amounts of pressure we feel to tell everyone and anyone. With the one little utterance at the beginning of group/program/or talk with someone of understanding status we realize three things: 1) I’m not alone 2) I only have to tell those when I’m ready 3) Those I’m telling now definitely don’t judge… they said it too!!
So, you don’t have to tell everyone that you’re an addict, you just have to know it yourself, live your life with the thought in mind to say “No” and keep putting the right foot forth living one day at a time.
Telling people will come in time, but most will recognize your recovery as you can see it coming from an outside view! Clearly you were a different person in your addiction and now you are becoming better every day in your recovery, it would be safe to say when your loved ones—or those you’re struggling to tell—will ask you first when they are the ones ready to hear it.
They will approach you and say: “Why are doing so much better my friend? You seem happier. You seem livelier. You seem like a good you!”
And now you can safely answer: “I’m proud I’ve reached a point in my life where recovery helping me flourish. I’m an addict yes, but I’m so much more than that! I’m a son/daughter; I’m a mother/father, brother/sister, and a better person from this recovery I tell you about! You’re right I am doing better and today I feel safe to admit that to you!”
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