Overcoming addiction to live a thriving, successful, sober life is a tremendous accomplishment, and a very important part of the events that have transpired to make you who you are. Your past does not define you, but your struggles and triumphs are an important part of your story.
No one who has ever lives is without a past of their own, and so sharing your truth with openness and honesty can be an important part of creating a strong relationship. However, it can not be denied that that is not always easy. Substance abuse and addiction are still deeply stigmatized in our society, and so sharing your story of addiction can sometimes make you subject to judgement and misunderstanding
. Some people may not be able to handle your full self, and will either close themselves off, or use your past as a weapon to try to get you to feel bad about yourself. Sometimes it can be tricky knowing whether or not to reveal your addiction in a relationship, of knowing whether or not you are with a safe person who deserves to hear your story and will respond well, or not. Here are some guidelines to think about when it is good to reveal your story.
Be in Control:
When addiction controls your life, you lose a great deal of free agency. Your cravings make you do things you wouldn’t consider otherwise, and you neglect real needs in the quest for an increasingly elusive high. An important part of recovery is learning to get back in touch with your own thoughts, feelings, and voice.
This means that you must be the one to decide when you are comfortable sharing your story, or disclosing your past or your recovery work. Do not let anyone else shame or force you into telling them more than you would like to. Taking charge of your own self-disclosure, then the addiction still has power over you.
Do not worry about other people’s expectations of “honesty.” There is a whole lot more to you than your addiction, so you have plenty to talk about and reveal should you choose to leave that out to a particular person or at a particular time.
Think carefully about why you want to disclose your status as a person in recovery. Disclosure is something that you should do for you own sake, not to please anyone else. Sharing your story prematurally can increase your shame, but acting as if it is something to hide can also bring on unhealthy feelings of shame. Whenever you think that your recovery work is something you want to tell someone else about, think carefully about why you want to.
A bad response to your disclosure at a time when you are in a vulnerable place can be a very damaging thing. Giving how radically your life changes in early recovery, it may be easy to simply want to tell everyone about your recovery the first chance you get.
However, this might not always be a wise path. Other people could make you feel stigmatized, or give bad advice, or otherwise react in an unhelpful way. You need to be prepared for this, and strong enough in your own recovery and self-image that you can handle it.
This means being confident enough in your own recovery to be solid in spite of challenges from others. Be able to tell your story in a calm and confident way, with gentleness for your past self that can take responsibility without feeling shame. Have a clear sense of you who are and who you are becoming, in a way that demands respect from the people listening.