When Should You Share Your Story?
People share their addiction recovery stories for a number of reasons. Recognizing why you are sharing your story and who your audience is can help you decide how much you want to tell.
It is very common in a recovery meeting like AA, NA, or SMART Recovery, for someone to share the story of how they fought addiction to get sober. In this case, the audience is other people who are recovering from substance abuse and also the storyteller. The goals are to help people see themselves in one another and realize they are not alone, to renew hope and confidence, and encourage the rest of the group. When you’re getting ready to share your story with a group of other people who choose to be sober, it may be especially helpful to share:
- Why you got sober
- Things that led you to relapse previously
- How you got back on the wagon
- How you stay sober
Now that you’re in recovery, you may be dreading the idea of facing your family, some of whom might not be the most educated about addiction or the most supportive. It’s important to remember that your story belongs to you, and it’s your decision what to share and with whom. One reason to share information is if you would like to rebuild trust with a loved one whom you may have wronged while in active addiction. If someone, even a family member, asks an intrusive question, you have the right to not answer or to provide a minimal answer, such as, “I don’t drink anymore. I feel so much better now.”
If you feel like you’re ready to talk to your own children or other children in your life about the choice you have made to get sober, it might be good to consider their developmental level and what they are ready to hear. The ways you address addiction with a toddler are different than the ways you would talk to a teenager.
There is no legal obligation to tell your current or future employers that you have struggled with addiction. Much like other health information, this is a private matter they are not entitled to know. Some people choose to tell their employers about their recovery journey for a few reasons:
- They may already know – your employer might have picked up on the fact that you never drink alcohol; they might be in recovery or be close to someone who is; or maybe you worked with them when you were still in active addiction and they see improvement in your behavior now. Your choice to tell them may just be filling in the gaps or building trust.
- You may want them to know – you may be fortunate enough to have an employer who is understanding and will accommodate your need to attend treatment and recovery meetings; you may want to give your boss a heads up on why you’re ditching the holiday party this year; or you may be hoping they will make the event alcohol-free.
- You may need to tell them – if you want to use substance abuse treatment options made available through your employee benefits plan, you might need help from Human Resources to figure out how to utilize those benefits. You may also be taking time off to attend treatment and they may need to know, at a minimum, that it’s for health reasons, so that you can take FMLA.
You have a year of sobriety under your belt. You and your sponsor have talked and agree you’re ready to re-enter the dating pool. You’ve progressed far enough in your recovery that you aren’t at risk for getting distracted by a romantic entanglement. You’ve met a person that you think you would like to spend more time getting to know. There is no right or wrong answer for when you should share your recovery story with this person, but there are pros and cons for sharing at different stages:
- Before the first date – if you met the person online or a friend is setting you up with someone they know, or even when choosing a location, it might be possible for your date to learn that you choose to be sober before you ever meet. You may or may not wish to share more than your choice not to drink at this time.
- On the first date – if you’re on a date with someone, there may be a natural opportunity to share your sober status when it is time to order a beverage. You may also decide to initiate the topic now that the person has had a chance to meet you and form a first impression.
- After the first date – some people prefer for the first date to be finished before they bring up their history of addiction. Waiting until the date is over might also give the other person a chance to process their feelings and ask questions before agreeing to a second date.
A Random Encounter
We’ve all met that person. Within thirty minutes of being introduced, you know their whole life story and you wonder why they’re sharing so much. Often, oversharing is the result of nerves. When talking to people who are not friends, family, colleagues or close acquaintances, less if often more.
Safe Harbor Is Ready to Help
If you or a loved one are in need of substance use disorder treatment, or if you have relapsed and want to adjust your treatment plan, Safe Harbor Recovery Center can help. Our rehab in Portsmouth, VA, is dedicated to helping you on the path to recovery. Share your story with us today.