If you’re struggling with an addiction, you’re struggling in more ways than one. You’re not just fighting something physical—you’re harboring this terrible secret. You’re likely fearful about losing your job, or hurting your family, being abandoned by your friends. And you’re not wrong: there can be some terrible consequences when addiction floods into every corner of your life.
However, although it may feel like revealing the fact that you are in this fight might be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, there are so many reasons to do it. The most important one might be that it will give you allies you can trust as you master your addiction. For this reason, coming clean can be a major step toward recovery.
How to open up
But how to do it? There are some things to keep in mind as you consider how to open up about your addiction. If you can follow some basic guidelines, you will be more likely to find the courage you need to make it through.
Find the right moment to talk to your friends and family about your addiction, but don’t wait any longer than you need to. Medical experts almost always agree that delaying can be harmful, especially since your addiction can get worse quickly. Tell them as soon as you can, and you’ll rip off the Band-Aid, saving everyone involved pain and getting help for yourself sooner.
Place matters, too
Choose the right setting to talk to them about this; remember, although it is central to your existence right now, to others it will feel deeply personal, and it will probably also feel distressing. This is nothing to bring up at brunch in a restaurant, or at the Superbowl party. Choose a quiet place with some privacy where everyone can be comfortable, and make sure it’s a safe space and everyone will have time to talk.
If your friend or family member becomes emotional or even angry—something that is well within the realm of the possible—don’t follow suit. Stay calm, and try to understand where they’re coming from. Realize that they may need a little time to process what you’re telling them, and allow them that. Sometimes even a friend or family member who isn’t an instant ally can grow into a powerful source of support as they learn more about the problem.
Your family and friends need to understand that addiction is a disease. Even addicts who put everything they have into recovery rarely have an easy path; it takes time and effort. Let them know how important support is to your recovery, and that this is why you included them. Discuss all of the possible treatment options with them, so they know you’ve done the research and are committed to your recovery.
Tell the truth
Don’t make excuses when you talk about this, and don’t leave anything out. Even if part of the reason you’re addicted is connected to family problems or peer pressure, your family and friends need to know. They are most likely to become allies when they can see you are both totally honest and deeply committed to recovery.
Why opening up matters
There are numerous reasons to open up about your addiction. In fact, there are as many benefits to telling your family and friends about your addiction as there are drawbacks to keeping it a secret.
You can help other addicts
It may seem like your individual story is of little importance, but that’s not true. Right now there are people who are struggling all alone, feeling like no one could possibly understand what they’ve been through. By telling the truth about your addiction to your friends and family, you will be showing someone who is still hiding alone that support and recovery are possible.
You need support
It’s not easy to recover from addiction, but it can be less difficult with support, encouragement, and guidance. In fact, many substance abuse experts believe the support addicts get from loved ones is essential to beating addiction. That support might mean just being there to listen; it might mean choosing venues that are easier to bear as you recover (for example, avoiding bars and clubs if you’re refraining from alcohol consumption).
Get rid of guilt and shame
Anyone who has been struggling with addiction is almost certainly experiencing terrific amounts of guilt and shame. Unfortunately, those are two emotions that fuel the fire of addiction. Placing your addiction in the light extinguishes much of the fire by removing those sources of fuel. This is also how you will learn to leave your baggage behind—another critical step in your recovery.
Hiding addiction hurts recovery—and relationships
If you’re busy trying to conceal your addiction, you are probably not focusing on your recovery. Some kinds of treatment you can’t hide, and if you’re not being open about your addiction, those treatments may be “off the table” even though they might be what works for you. Meanwhile, you’re likely to be isolating yourself as you struggle to hide your problem, which deepens the issue. Addiction thrives in secrecy.
Improves your relationships
Relationships are never easy, but when they’re premised on concealing important details, they nearly always fail. If you want people to be there for you, be there for them—by telling them the truth. Only by coming clean can you demonstrate that you are really there for other people.
Tying things together
Opening up about an addiction is a huge step, but it’s one you can take. When you decide to do it, you can set yourself on a much more positive trajectory, for your recovery and your emotional life more generally. Opening up to your family and friends about your addiction in the right ways will enable your recovery.
Being in the right setting with the right tools will also enable your full, comfortable, pain-free recovery. Our resort-like setting can provide the cutting-edge medical tools, professional supports, and restful atmosphere you need to support you in your fight. We’d love to answer any questions you have, so take advantage of our deep bench of addiction treatment experience and reach out for more information about opening up about your addiction.
Dr. Sola is one of the world’s leading experts in medically-based ibogaine treatment; he has more clinical experience with safe and effective ibogaine administration than any other M.D. in the world today.