How to Tell Someone You Suffer From Addiction
Admitting to anyone, including yourself, that you are suffering from addiction and need help is likely to release complex emotions including feelings of helplessness, fear, disappointment, and shame.
The prospect of sharing your illness with friends and family can be daunting but if you can work up the courage to reach out for help it will prove to be an essential step to your recovery.
Why should I tell?
Long-term addiction recovery from substance dependency is not easy. You are going to need all the help you can get, including your friends and family who will form part of your support network.
By admitting to your loved ones that you are having difficulty managing or stopping alcohol or taking drugs, you are allowing them to step up and support you as best they can.
It’s a good idea to brace yourself for their initial reaction as they may express anger and disappointment; but once the shock has subsided you will be surprised by their support and willingness to help.
If you are currently struggling with an active addiction – meaning you are using drugs and/or alcohol frequently and are unable to stop – there are many benefits to letting your friends and family know.
They are probably already wondering what is going on with you, no matter how hard you try to conceal your struggle. They might even be somewhat relieved to finally have an explanation for your out-of-character behaviours.
Once you have told your friends and family, you are finally free to ask them for help. Friends and family will often help you find the best addiction treatment program for you.
If you are already in recovery and have been to rehab there might seem little point in letting anyone know you are a former substance abuser. However, disclosure is key to sustained long-term recovery.
Considering the Australian drinking culture, it is statistically impossible that you will be able to stay away from all locations where alcohol is available. At some point, you will find yourself at a social occasion and someone will offer you a drink – unless they know you are a recovering alcoholic. Once you have told people, they can support you by helping you abstain.
The same is true for all other substances. You have to be open about your struggles and your desire to remain clean in order for your friends and family to rally around you and help you minimise the risk of triggers and relapse.
When should I tell them?
Ideally, you will have this conversation shortly after you admit to yourself that you are suffering from addiction. Don’t put it off; you may lose your nerve if you do.
It is up to you how you tell them. You can call a family meeting and tell everyone who needs to know at once or you might prefer telling only one or two of your nearest and dearest at first.
That said, no matter how many of your friends and family are present when you first admit to your struggle with addiction, make sure the timing is at least moderately convenient. Late at night or just as people have to leave the house to go to work is not ideal – this is unlikely to be a ten-minute conversation.
Where should I tell them?
You will need a calm and private space for this conversation.
Ideally, you will be at someone’s home where everyone feels safe and comfortable to express their feelings – because there are likely to be a lot of feelings.
Once you have made your announcement, it is important for you to stay and listen; your friends and family are entitled to say their piece as well. Yes, this will be hard; but you will be surprised how helpful their take on the situation can be as you begin your recovery journey.
How should I tell them?
There is no one right way when it comes to telling friends and family.
It’s not a bad idea to plan ahead and rehearse what you want to say. It might even be helpful to write down the best version you can come up with so that you can refer back to it in case you get emotional or lose track.
No matter the words you choose, the most important thing is to be completely honest.
There is no point in minimising your substance abuse issues, you are doing no one any favours by sugar-coating is or leaving out the parts you are most ashamed of.
This is your chance to change your life. Admitting your struggles with alcohol and/or drugs can be terrifying; however, it is also the first step to freeing yourself from the cycle of addiction.
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