Alcohol use disorder, sometimes called alcoholism, is a condition that tells you that you don’t have a disease. One of its many unspoken rules is that you must keep it hidden – from yourself, and especially from family and friends.
But when you’re ready, there are two important reasons to widen the circle.
1. Secrets and shame make you sick.
“Addiction thrives in isolation and recovery occurs in the community,” says Marvin Ventrell, CEO of the National Association of Drug Treatment Providers.
“In any substance use disorder, feeling ashamed and keeping a secret is part of the condition, and we have to fight that to be good,” says Ventrell, who is recovering for the long haul.
“We have a health problem and it is imperative that you can tell your friends and relatives about it as you would any other illness.”
2. You need and deserve support.
Whatever form of your recovery, you need help. This includes advice from professionals who understand the illness and support from loved ones who can monitor you and come forward for you.
“Sobriety says a lot about you,” says Tawny Lara, a sober sex and relationship writer who has been sober for over 5 years. “That said you put your mental and physical health first. I wanted the people in my life to echo it. I have friends and family who are not sober, but I wanted them to understand what was going on in my life.
It’s hard to be vulnerable
Alcohol Use Disorder is not a failure problem. It is not a question of morality or character. But the stigma surrounding addiction says otherwise.
“Stigma is often what keeps people from getting stuck,” says Todd Garlington, senior therapist at the Greenhouse Treatment Center, who is recovering in the long term. “The fear is that when I tell someone, they won’t accept me. They’ll think I’m a bad person.
Hollywood and the media support the stigma, but real life looks different.
“In the movies, people hit rock bottom and live under a bridge. Then they get sober, ”says Lara. “It’s true for some people, but not for everyone.
“I never saw my version of substance abuse disorder or alcoholism depicted, so I didn’t think I had a problem,” she says. “I still had several jobs, I had a roof over my head, I paid my bills on time and I could go days or weeks without drinking. But when I drank, I drank until I passed out. Normal drinkers do not pass out. I want this to be represented in film and television.
Part of the recovery process is sharing your secret. It’s scary to be vulnerable, but there’s a good chance anyone you talk to has faced the same problem or knows someone who has.
“More than 25 million people in the United States over the age of 12 suffer from a substance use disorder,” Garlington says. “Acknowledge this. Stay on it. Treat it and get the help you need. The most important thing is to realize that you are not alone. “
Actions and reactions
Lara’s father is recovering, so she knew he would support him. She was more concerned with telling her friends about it.
“I was a bartender and a party girl for a long time, and my friends were in that scene as well,” she says. “When I told my bartending friends that I wasn’t going to drink that week, they’d say, ‘You’re doing fine. You are in your early twenties. I wondered how I was going to spend time with my friends, make new friends, and hang out with me. Much of my life was rooted in drinking alcohol that doing anything without it was completely overwhelming.
When she first started talking about her drinking problem, Lara had a mixture of reactions.
“I learned who my friends were and who my buddies were,” she says. “I got sober in a very unusual way. I started a blog and it was my responsibility.
“My friends supported me because it was a writing project, but a friend – we had ‘best friend’ tattoos – accused me of lying and making everything up to attract attention. Warning. She later apologized and said she was having a hard time processing my news because if I had a problem it meant she might have a problem too. “
Ask for help or share information
Before sharing with someone, ask yourself the following question: What do I need?
Maybe you need to tell a friend or loved one what’s going on with you, and that’s enough. You may be asking for help. If so, be as specific as possible:
- Can you come with me to a meeting?
- Can you get me treated?
- If I need detox, can you make sure I have essentials clothes and supplies?
- Can you send me cards or letters while I am in rehab?
- If we go out, can you please not drink around me?
“A lot of times it’s just ‘being there’,” Lara says. “’Hey, I’m going to talk to my mom about my drinking problem at one o’clock today. Can you stay there if I need to talk? Or “I’m having trouble. Can you send me a funny text message this week by texting? “
Early in her recovery, Lara did a lot of research – reading memoirs, checking stories online, and searching #sober on social media to see how other people were relating to their families.
“There are some wonderful free resources,” she says.
Bonus: the more people you talk about, the more responsibility you create. “The more people around me who know I’m struggling with this, the better able I am to stay the course,” Garlington says.
There are no magic words
There is no right or perfect way to share your drinking problem with a friend or family member. Telling anyone that is a step in the right direction.
“Just be real and tell people what you’re going through,” Lara says. “You don’t have to tell them why, just that you have decided to quit drinking. It can create a bridge and create a conversation. Above all, it removes the shame and stigma of the secret that we have kept for so long.
Your loved ones may not know what to say or have questions. To help them learn more, Lara suggests sharing a few resources you’ve used. But don’t overdo it. You need to focus on your own recovery.
The point is to share safely and not to feel disconnected while you are working out to get sober.
“All you have to say is, ‘I have a problem,'” said Ventrell. “When we do that, they immediately start to feel a little better because they’re not so lonely and scared.”
Set healthy expectations
Everyone’s journey, from addiction to sobriety, is unique. The only thing you can control when talking to your friends and family about your drinking is the words you say. You cannot control the way other people feel or react.
“In a perfect world, what we would get from these conversations is complete and utter love and acceptance. The truth is, it can go right or wrong. It depends on the individual. Garlington said.
“If things go wrong, don’t empower others over you. You are in control of your destiny. Use positive self-talk: ‘I can do this.’ “
Garlington has been there more than once.
“I was sober for 20 years and then I relapsed,” Garlington says. “I was so guilty when I called my dad to tell him that I had to go back to treatment. But he said, ‘My son, I’m glad you got the help you need,’ and that took away my shame and guilt. Our illness can lead us to very dark places. To break this is huge. “
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