Last Updated on February 12, 2018 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Congratulations!  You accepted that you have a drug or alcohol problem and now you are seeking help for it.  You are already on the road to recovery!  Now, it’s time to tell your others about this new and major development in your life and future.  But how?  Telling others about an addiction can be difficult, but with the right approach, it can be a great benefit to you.

You Don’t Have to Tell Everyone…

Know that you don’t have to tell anyone about your recovery that you don’t want to tell.  Your addiction and subsequent recovery can certainly be your secret if that is what you choose.  Or, you can wait until you are a few weeks, months, or even years along on your recovery journey before you divulge it to your extended family and acquaintances.  Perhaps you want to tell some people – like your immediate family and closest friends – but not others.  Does your boss really need to know?  Do your coworkers?  Do you need to tell your friend that you only see once or twice a year?  These decisions are up to you, and the answers are likely different for each individual.

….But You Have to Be Ready to Tell Anyone!

You don’t have to tell everybody, but you also have to be ready to tell anyone at any time, too.  Fact is, your newfound sobriety may come up at any time.  A new client may offer you a drink at a business dinner.  An old friend may come into town and may hope to party like you did together in the old days.  You may win a trip to a winery in a drawing you forgot you entered.  An acquaintance may pass you a joint at a concert.  Any of these people may ask you questions when you decline, or may even hassle you about it.  The simple response is simple:  “I don’t drink” or “I don’t do drugs.”  Out of respect, no one should really push you beyond that, or question you further; unfortunately, some will. Be ready to respond in situations like these.  You may be caught completely off guard, so you may want to mentally rehearse your responses should these types of events arise in the future.

Telling Friends & Family You Are in Recovery

Although some of your closest friends and family likely knew about your drug or alcohol problem and visit to a rehabilitation facility, you perhaps have some other friends and extended family who did not know that you would like to inform.  When doing so, there are a few things do to make it easier on all parties involved.

  • Be honest, upfront, and straightforward. As with any difficult conversation, it’s important to be completely honest and to get straight to the point.  There’s no sense in beating around the bush; simply tell the person that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and that you are now in the process of getting help for that addiction.
  • Explain why you sought help. Although in many cases, the recipient of this information may be well aware of your drug or alcohol issues even if he or she never mentioned it before, sometimes others may have no idea of your struggles that have lead you to this point.  Giving him or her some background on your suffering may help to make your need for treatment much more clear.
  • Apologize for past behavior. It’s likely that while you were deeply involved in active addiction that you did some things that may have upset others, and probably regret those actions now.   Acknowledge those mistakes and apologize for them.  Your friends and family may be sick and tired of hearing what they believe to be false promises, but you can hope that they will be willing to forgive and forget one last time now that you are truly working on your recovery.
  • Tell people one at a time or in small groups. It’s often easier to broach difficult subjects one-on-one or in small groups, than to tell many people at once.  Once you have the support of some friends or family members, it will be easier to tell the rest of them.
  • Write a letter. If you feel like you are going to have a very hard time telling the person verbally, or if you fear that he or she will have a difficult time hearing what you have to say, writing a letter may be the best route for you.  Putting your thoughts in writing helps you to organize them, and may make them easier for the other person to absorb, too.
  • Don’t hide your feelings. Be open about your emotions during this time.  These are people who care about you, and they will understand.  Recovery is a challenging time for all who undertake it; you have likely cycled through many different feelings during this transition and will continue to do so in the months ahead.  Share these ups and downs with your friends and family and they will begin to get a clearer picture of your experience.
  • Be prepared for resistance. Unfortunately, not everyone will support you.  Some people may even try to talk you out of sobriety or may try to minimize your struggles.  Don’t listen to them.  Remember, you may be the first sober person some of them have ever encountered.  Your recovery may force them to question their own drug and alcohol use, and that may be uncomfortable for them.  It’s certainly difficult to encounter people who do not support your new and healthy path, but remember why you are on it, and be strong.  If they don’t come around, it may be time for you to consider seeking out a new group of friends.
  • Educate and offer guidance. As mentioned above, people close to you may not know anyone else working on their recovery, and they may know very little about addiction.  They may not realize addiction is a disease, or they may not realize that being in recovery means never doing another drug or having another drink for the rest of your life.  Provide them with resources like websites and support groups (see below), and tell them you are happy to answer any questions they may have about the process.
  • Ask for support. Now that everyone is aware of your addiction and your efforts to change, you can ask them for support.  People who love you for who you really are will be more than happy to help.  Thankfully, you no longer have to try to hide your drug and alcohol problem.  Your friends and family can help you by being there when you feel tempted, and can be on the lookout for potential triggers; having an army of supportive people around you can certainly help to keep you on the right track.

Telling Children

Informing children and teens about your addiction can certainly be even more challenging than telling adults.  In many cases, telling them may not be necessary at all.  However, if you wish to inform them about your recovery, first begin by explaining that you have a disease, in a developmentally appropriate way.  Explain to them clearly that it is not at all their fault.  Most importantly, reassure them that you will still always be there for them, and that your love for them has not faltered or changed.  Tell them that people can change, even in the face of great difficulty, and that you are one of those people.   Offer to answer questions they may have to the best of your ability, and tell them that you will continue to work on your recovery day by day.

Resources for Friends & Family

Since it’s possible that you may be the first person your friends and family have ever known with a drug problem or who sought treatment for one, they may need some support and some education themselves!  You have certainly learned a great deal about these topics since first seeking help, so don’t be surprised if they know little or virtually nothing about these things.  A great place for them to start is on the website of The National Institute on Drug Abuse which answers many questions in a way that is concise yet thorough, and is easy to understand.  Other reputable websites, such as WebMd or also offer a wealth of information on the topics of drug use and addiction as well.

Furthermore, you may suggest they seek out a support group of their own to help them not only cope with the news of your addiction and recovery, but also to learn ways to help you on your mission.  The most popular and well-known groups for support for the families of addicts are Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, and chapters of both can be easily located in even the smallest towns in our nation.

At Clear Sky Recovery, we can help you determine when and how to tell your friends and family about your addiction and recovery.  This is likely something we would discuss with you after your ibogaine treatment experience, just before you are discharged and sent home.  We realize that telling your loved ones about what you have been through and what lies ahead may not be easy, but we are here to give you support every step of the way.   If you are interested in learning more about our facility and about ibogaine detox in general, please give us a call today.  We can’t wait to hear from you!