How to Tell Someone You Are in Recovery

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Entering into recovery for the first time can be overwhelming. You’ll have a lot of new territory to explore. Not only will you be learning how to live a drug and alcohol-free life, but you’ll be learning more about yourself and how you want to interact with the world around you. Active addiction typically entails a great deal of isolation – addicts and alcoholics are usually very secretive and they tend to push their friends and family members away so that they can continue using and drinking without having to answer to anyone. This isolation will generally lead to devolved social skills. Having heart-to-heart conversations will become difficult and they might forget what it feels like to have close friends to confide in.

One of the most important parts of addiction recovery is the ability to speak openly and honestly with other people. Communication is key when it comes to long-term sobriety. You will need to know how to ask for help when you need it and how to be there to help other people that rely on you for support. Learning to communicate effectively again can be difficult in and of itself. Once you do begin developing close relationships with others who are not in recovery (co-workers and other friends who might not be sober because they don’t have a problem with drinking or drug use) you might wonder what level of communication is appropriate. Maybe you have anxieties and concerns about telling people that you’re in addiction recovery. It’s important to remember that while admitting your addiction to yourself is the first step in recovery, you aren’t required to admit your personal struggles to everyone you come into contact with.

Whether or not you tell someone about your recovery will depend on your personal relationship with that person and how comfortable you feel talking about your private life with them. At Guardian Recovery we believe that you get to decide who, when, and how you talk about your recovery – so long as you’re being open and honest with your sober support network. We’ve examined different types of relationships and how one in recovery might go about talking about their sobriety within these relationships. Take a look!

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Talking to Coworkers About Your Recovery

In most cases there isn’t any reason to bring the details of your personal life into your place of employment. Of course if you become very close with one or several of your coworkers this might change – developing friendships with coworkers outside of work is a completely different story. But if your coworkers ask you to go to happy hour with them after work, you don’t need to spill your guts and explain your active addiction and your desperate need to stay sober. You can say something along the lines of, “No thank you, I’m going to call it early tonight,” or “I don’t drink, but thank you for the offer!” Feel free to keep things as nondescript as you’d like.

If you are new to recovery and are prioritizing meetings and outpatient treatment and other aspects of aftercare, you might want to let your boss know about your situation so that you feel comfortable asking for time off when necessary. Before you do, gage the situation to the best of your ability. Also keep in mind that although being in addiction recovery is something to be proud of, not everyone will be as understanding as we’d like. Remember that there are laws in place to prevent discrimination. Any discrimination within the workplace is not condoned.

Talking About Your Recovery in Relationships

Although it is recommended that those in early recovery wait a year before they start dating, many newly sober men and women will find themselves in a relationship within the first several months of recovery. This can be dangerous because break-ups a major relapse trigger. At Guardian Recovery we strongly recommend that you focus on yourself and your own well-being for an entire year before entering into a relationship. Once you do get into a romantic relationship (assuming the person you become involved with isn’t in recovery too) you might wonder how to talk to them about your sobriety.

If you are on a first date there’s probably no need to explain your recovery. Remember that successful romantic relationships are built on honest communication. If drinking continuously comes up (if you go out to dinner several times and the person you’re dating keeps offering alcohol, or if you decline his or her invitations to go the bar repeatedly, etc.) you might want to explain your situation sooner rather than later. Only you will know when the timing is right. But when you do decide to discuss your recovery, make sure you let the person you’re dating know that sobriety is your top priority. Setting this boundary straight away will help you to continue prioritizing your recovery down the road. Also remember that you don’t have to blurt out all of the details of your past history – take your time when divulging personal information. Don’t talk about your personal struggles and subsequent recovery unless you feel comfortable and safe doing so.

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Telling Your Friends About Your Recovery

You likely had two kinds of friends while you were active in your addiction: friends that were concerned about your well-being and were rooting for you to get sober, and friends that you used to drink and use drugs with. When you get sober you will make a whole group of new friends – friends that you will meet in inpatient rehabsober living, and 12-step meetings. Your sober friends will be there to support you and listen to you because they will know exactly what you’re going through. Of course, entering into recovery doesn’t mean you have to discard all of your old friends. It is a good idea to stay away from people who are still drinking excessively or using drugs. Stay away from the people you used to party with – the people that encouraged you to keep using rather than encouraging you to get clean and sober.

You might wonder how to tell your pre-existing friends about your recovery. Keep in mind that your true friends will always want the best for you. They will never question your decision to get sober. Be prepared to answer questions when you do come clean to your friends but know that they will never question your motives or pressure you to return to your old ways. There is no timeline for talking to your friends about your recovery – do it when the time feels right, and when you feel comfortable doing so.

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Telling Your Family Members You’re in Recovery

Chances are, your immediate family members know all about your personal journey of recovery. When it comes to family members that are farther removed, you don’t need to talk to them about your recovery unless you want to and you feel doing so is necessary. If you ever wronged your family members during your active addiction you will be asked to make amends to them eventually. Explaining your sobriety to family members often happens during the amends process – don’t rush it! If you have questions about timing ask your sponsor or another sober support – or reach out to us at Immersion Recovery Center with any questions you might have.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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