For many, one of the scariest parts of addiction and alcoholism is the fear of what others will think and how they will react upon hearing the news that you are an alcoholic. For this reason, some people may keep their struggle quiet. But this isn’t always the best option, as recovery is something that is not easy alone. Most people need support and understanding from the people in their lives, as their loved ones truly want to help.
Though it may be hard to work up the courage to let people know you are struggling, more often than not you will be met with kindness and understanding. Here are a few tips for breaking the news.
Just Be Honest And Upfront
If you are a person who is comfortable being open and honest, just tell the people in your life what is going on right off the bat. Tell them what steps you are taking to treat your alcoholism and what you need from them in terms of support. More often than not, the people in your life that are close to you won’t be surprised by the news. Chances are they have noticed how drinking has impacted your life and had a feeling that you may have an issue with alcohol. It is likely that they will be proud of you and be supportive in your journey to recovery. If this isn’t the case, you may want to rethink the relationship and whether or not it is a healthy one.
If You Don’t Feel Comfortable Talking Face-To-Face, Write A Letter
I’m the type of person that is much better at putting my thoughts on paper than I am at verbalizing them. For this reason, when it comes to communicating on a heavy or serious topic, I prefer to write rather than talk. I know I’m not alone here. For many, it is less scary and intimidating to write a letter or an email than it is to have a face-to-face conversation. This allows you to think through what you want to say and how you’d like to word it, but it also gives your friends and family time to process what you are going through before they respond.
Make Sure You’re Telling People For The Right Reasons
You should feel comfortable and ready when you are telling people that you are in recovery. Rather than doing so because you feel obligated, you should be doing so because you want to. Our pasts are an important part of our present, and this is often the reason we share things with other people. According to Stitch.net, “Self-disclosure has a lot of admirable honesty to it, but there needs to be more than honesty for it to go smoothly. You need to feel a certain sense of ownership of your past — taking responsibility for past failings without being ruled by shame. You need to be calm and confident in your disclosure, clear about who you are, where you have been, and where you are going. Above all, you need to disclose for your own sake, not for the sake of society or anyone else.”
Don’t Bury Your Feelings About Your Recovery
For some, it can be difficult to talk to friends and family about alcoholism and sobriety as there are often feelings of regret and shame that accompany the conversation. This may have to do with how alcoholism has affected our past relationships. But part of recovery is coming to terms with your past and with your emotions, which means you need to learn to be comfortable feeling what you feel and expressing those feelings. It is healthy to learn to feel your emotions rather than to continuously bury them deeper. According to Karen Horneffer-Ginter, author of Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit, “When we allow our emotions to be felt, they do have a trajectory of their own, and we don’t get to fully control it. This seems to be why feelings can feel so scary. They have a certain physics of their arrival, their staying time, and their passing — but often we’re best off allowing this natural movement to occur in its own time and way. It doesn’t typically help the situation to try to force feelings through our system or to attempt to snuff them out. Actually, often the shortest distance through difficult feelings is entering right into the heart of them.”
Tell People One At A Time Or In Small Groups
Some people have anxiety about talking in front of crowds, especially about a personal matter. So rather than calling all your friends and family together to tell them all at once, try to have the conversation with each of them separately or a few at a time. This can take a lot of the anxiety out of the equation and also give you the chance to tell people on your terms. It also allows them to react better and ask questions if they want to.
Yes, it can be a scary thing to tell people that you are struggling with alcoholism. But if you think ahead and determine the best way to handle the situation, you’ll likely be met with kindness and understanding, which makes recovery much easier.
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Horneffer-Ginter, Karen. Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit: The Importance of Feeling What We Feel. Huffington Post. 6 September 2012. Accessed 8 January 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-hornefferginter-phd/emotions-feelings_b_1852713.html
When To Tell Someone You’re A Recovering Addict. Stitch.net. Accessed 8 January 2017. https://www.stitch.net/blog/2015/08/when-to-tell-someone-youre-a-recovering-addict/
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.