Your Recovery Journey
After you’ve completed residential treatment at St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, you have the skills necessary to build a sober life for yourself. However, it’s natural to find yourself feeling conflicted in regards to sharing your recovery journey with others.
It may be helpful to think of your recovery in the same way you’d view a chronic medical condition such as diabetes. While you probably wouldn’t announce to everyone you meet that you’re a diabetic, it would be smart to share this information when people try to offer you a slice of cake or witness you checking your blood sugar.
Being in recovery doesn’t define you, but it is an important part of your life story that should be shared under certain circumstances.
Your Healthcare Provider
Your healthcare provider needs to have a basic understanding of your substance abuse history in order to provide medically-appropriate care. For example, IV drug users have a higher risk of contracting Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C and heavy drinkers have a higher risk of liver disease. If applicable, your doctor also needs to know about any unprotected sexual encounters you had while under the influence so you can be evaluated for HIV and other STDs.
Healthcare providers are bound by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) rules regarding patient privacy and confidentiality. Your doctor will not share information about your substance abuse without your consent.
Your employer may need to know about your addiction treatment if you require accommodations such as time off work or a flexible schedule to attend recovery-related appointments. Being in treatment for a substance use disorder is considered a disability entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
When you discuss your addiction with your employer, provide only the details that are relevant to your work. Stress that you remain committed to recovery and getting the help you need to excel in your position.
Your Romantic Partner
Someone you’re dating casually doesn’t need to know about your addiction history. If you’re just getting to know each other, sharing the details of your recovery might be seen as too intimate. In the early stages of a relationship, it’s more appropriate to focus on basic signs of compatibility instead of sharing every detail from your past.
However, if you’re in a serious relationship, your partner should understand your recovery so he or she can provide you with the necessary support you need to remain sober. A partner who doesn’t know about your past might pressure you to go places where alcohol is served, question your self-care routine in times of stress, or not understand why you no longer associate with certain family members or friends from your past.
Sharing your recovery with your child should always be done in an age-appropriate way. Younger children may need reassurance that your past behavior was a symptom of a disease and not a reflection of anything they did “wrong” that upset you. Teens and young adults may want to know that you’re actively working towards recovery and committed to building a healthier parent-child dynamic going forward.
When you’re considering what details to share with your child, keep in mind that addiction does have genetic risk factors. If you struggled with substance abuse and have other family members with similar issues, your child needs to understand that he or she is at a higher risk of developing a drug or alcohol problem as the result of this family history. Although genetics aren’t destiny, this information can help your child make safer choices when he or she is faced with pressure to use drugs or alcohol.
Other Family Members
Family dynamics can be complicated. Members of your extended family who have been supportive of your recovery from the beginning can provide a vital source of accountability and encouragement when you face challenges on the road to developing a wellness-focused lifestyle. However, family members who are actively using drugs or alcohol, suffer from uncontrolled mental illnesses, or believe heavily in addiction stigma may not be positive influences for your recovery.
It is important to trust your instincts when it comes to dealing with your family. You are worthy of love and respect, regardless of what has happened in the past. If your relationship with certain family members is toxic to your recovery, you don’t need to continue allowing these individuals access to your life story. It’s OK to decide to choose your own path.
Sharing your recovery story with friends should be done on a case by case basis. If you’re speaking to your best friend and you trust her completely, you can share as many details as you feel comfortable with. However, if you’re speaking to someone you’ve only recently started spending time with, you might want to err on the side of caution and keep the sharing to a minimum.
If you decide to share your substance abuse history with your friends, pay close attention to how they respond. Someone who minimizes the importance of your sobriety or questions why you can’t have “just one” drink at a party may not be a good influence as you continue on the road to recovery.