Once you’ve made the decision to seek treatment for your substance use disorder, you may wonder how to share the news that you’re going to rehab. This can be an intimidating conversation to have, but it’s an important part of your recovery journey. Here, we share some tips to help you decide what you wish to say.
Protect Your Privacy Without Feeding the Rumor Mill
There’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about your decision to seek treatment, but you’re entitled to your privacy. If you don’t want to share all of the details, you can simply say that you’re getting help for a medical issue and hope to reconnect when you’re in good health. It’s also OK if you decide that certain people in your life are entitled to more information about your treatment plans than others.
That being said, one potential downside to be aware of if you’re hoping to protect your privacy is that a vague explanation for your absence can sometimes lead to gossip. Being direct without being overly specific may be the best way to let you control the narrative regarding your absence.
Think About What They Already Know
Even if you think you’ve done a good job of hiding your addiction, there’s a strong likelihood that the people you see regularly already suspect something is up. They may even have tried to bring up the changes in your behavior previously. In this case, letting them know you realize you have a substance abuse problem and that you’ve decided to seek addiction treatment is likely to come as a relief.
However, if you’re telling a child that you’re attending rehab, it can be dangerous to make assumptions about what they already know. Children often falsely believe that adult problems are caused by their own misbehavior, and they may be getting incorrect information about substance abuse from their peers. See our post on Talking to Kids About a Parent’s Addiction for tips on approaching this conversation in an age-appropriate way.
When People Offer to Help, Make Specific Requests When Going to Rehab
When you announce that you’re planning to go to rehab, you’ll likely encounter people who want to help but aren’t sure what you need at this particular moment. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance with specific tasks—especially if they will ease your mind about being away from home. For example:
- Caring for a pet while you’re away
- Watering your plants
- Help with childcare needs, such as transporting your children to and from school or helping them with their
- Checking in with your spouse or partner while you’re away
- Helping you practice what you’re going to say to your boss when you ask for time off work or helping you look for a new job when you return home
Explain How You Can Communicate While You’re Away
Each treatment facility has slightly different rules regarding visitors and communication with friends and family. Sharing what the policies are can help alleviate concerns about how you’ll remain in contact while you’re away.
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we ask that clients at our Pennsylvania substance abuse treatment center leave their electronic devices at home so they can focus on their healing without outside distractions. However, we do encourage keeping in touch by sending letters and cards.
Additionally, we encourage our residents to allow us to regularly speak with their families about their treatment progress. If you consent to allow these updates, a counselor will reach out to your family within a day or two of admission and remain in regular communication throughout the duration of your stay.
Offer to Share Recovery-Related Information About Rehab
Addiction is often misunderstood, so your loved ones might not fully understand why time in rehab is a necessary part of your recovery journey. Sharing materials from the facility you’re attending can make them feel more comfortable with your decision and offer insight into what to expect when you return. Our website contains general information about our program, while our regularly updated blog discusses different addiction and mental health related topics.
Recognize That Some People Might Not React As Positively As You’d Hoped
Obviously, you want the people you care about to support your decision to make a positive change in your life. However, it’s possible that some of these individuals might meet your announcement with suspicion. They might be still nursing hurt feelings from your past addiction-related behavior and not be convinced you’re ready to get sober. Don’t let this discourage you. Repairing your relationships will take time, but you’re already taking a massive step forward by making the decision to get help for your substance use disorder.
Another possible reason why someone might appear unsupportive of your decision to seek treatment is that they’re struggling privately with their own substance abuse issues and aren’t quite ready to get the help they need. In this case, making the choice to get clean and setting a positive example of what a sober life can look like may end up inspiring them to eventually begin their own recovery journey.