When it comes to early recovery, there is quite a lot of new, uncharted territory to cover. You might have to navigate sobriety for the first time in years – maybe for the first time since you can even remember. Not only will you have to learn how to function on a day-to-day basis without drugs or alcohol, but you will learn how to fulfill personal responsibilities and take care of obligations in a way you may have never done before. You will learn to work full-time without showing up to your place of employment drunk, high or hungover, you will learn to be financially responsible and independent, you will learn how to effectively communicate and work through relapse triggers. You will be solely accountable for the maintenance of your own sobriety. You will learn to set personal boundaries, and you will learn how to operate in a sober man or woman in a world that doesn’t always “get it.” Because people won’t always get it. Not only is addiction a widely misunderstood disease, but it is commonly stigmatized. A lot of people still hold true to the misguided idea that substance abuse is the result of weak will power or general indifference. Of course, anyone who has suffered at the hands of a serious substance abuse disorder knows the truth – that addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease, one that most wouldn’t wish upon their worst enemy.
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Ultimately, It’s Up to You
In any case… you’re in recovery. You’ve been in recovery for a few months. Other than your immediate family members and closest friends, no one really knows what you’ve been going through. No need to broadcast your personal struggles, right? Right. The truth of the matter is that you get to decide who you tell and when to tell them. There is no “golden rule” that says who you must inform and who you should keep in the dark. If you feel comfortable talking about it and you want to tell someone, by all means, go for it. If you feel uncomfortable telling someone and you feel it’s really none of their business anyways, keep your mouth shut. Do whatever you feel is best for you. However, it is important to note that there will come a time when you’re directly asked a question about your sobriety. There will come a time when someone who doesn’t know offers you an alcoholic beverage at a work event or a bong rip at a house party. For this reason, it is important that you are at least prepared to respond in a way that you feel is appropriate.
Who to Tell?
Again, if you want to keep your recovery completely private, that’s your prerogative. Do what you feel is right. But generally speaking, people who are in recovery tend to tell those who are in their close inner circle that they are no longer drinking or drugging – simply because it’s safer. If your close friends, your family members and your co-workers know that you’re remaining abstinent, they’ll tend to respect that fact and not beg you to join them for happy hour or offer you a beer at the next family BBQ. You don’t have to tell them why – you aren’t required to detail anything at all. Remember sober does not necessarily equate to “in recovery.” Although, expect people to ask questions like, “Wait, are you like, an alcoholic,” when you tell them that you don’t drink. At Chapel Hill Detox, the majority of our clinical and medical team and support staff members have either lived through addiction firsthand or have helped a loved one through the addiction recovery process. This allows us a unique and compassionate perspective, as well as a great deal of personal insight. We have compiled a list of potential situations and examples of things you might say… but if you have any additional questions about telling people you’re sober, feel free to ask our staff members directly.
Talking About Your Sobriety – Examples
Example A: You start a new job working at a small diner – a joint that only serves breakfast and lunch. Because they don’t serve alcohol, you assume you’ll be able to effectively avoid potential relapse triggers. One day after work, about a week after you started, two of your coworkers ask if you’d like to hang out. You’ve been looking for new friends, so you excitedly agree. You meet them at a local Mexican restaurant for dinner – and they have both already sucked down two margaritas apiece. What’s your next move?
The best bet in a situation like this is at least telling your coworkers that you don’t drink. If you don’t feel the need to explain why, simply don’t explain why. But because they invited you out to drink with them after a week of employment, there is a good chance they will do so again. Rather than avoid them altogether, it is probably best to get that small piece of information out into the open. Remember, if you are still in early recovery and you don’t feel comfortable being there at all, make an excuse to get out of there. No matter what you decide to say, be sure that you are prioritizing and protecting your sobriety at all costs.
Example B: Your extended family comes over for Christmas. Your parents know that you’re sober, of course, and so does your younger brother. Your extended family (who you typically try to avoid at all costs) does not. Your uncle brings over a big case of your favorite beer, cracks two open and hands one to you. As is tradition. You say, “I’m good, thanks.” He looks at you in shock and says, “No way. You’re my drinking buddy! Let’s do this!” What’s your next move?
Because this man is a member of your family and because you see him during every major holiday, it’s probably best to fill him in. Again, offer up as much information as you feel comfortable offering. You don’t necessarily need to say anything like, “Did you not notice how destructive my drinking patterns were?? What’s wrong with you?? I’m sober, gosh darn it! I’m sober, and you should be too!” Something as simple as, “I actually stopped drinking. Like, completely. Need to give myself the opportunity to focus on school… drinking had become a bit of a distraction.” Or, “I won’t be drinking for a while. I actually started drinking a little bit too much, so I’m taking a long-term break.”
The truth of the matter is, there are about 5,000 different ways to tell someone that you are in recovery. Of course, simply saying, “I don’t drink anymore, I’m in recovery,” is the most straightforward answer. But if you don’t feel comfortable saying that so early on, just make sure you get the main point across – you don’t drink. Protect yourself.
Chapel Hill Detox – A Necessary First Step
No need to discuss your sobriety with anyone if you don’t get sober in the first place, of course. If you have been struggling with active addiction and you are interested in changing your way of life and beginning your own personal journey of long-term recovery, Chapel Hill Detox is ready to help in any way possible. Medical detox is a necessary first step on every journey of recovery, regardless of what substance or substances were involved and how severe the substance abuse disorder became. Symptoms associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal are often unpredictable, and must be effectively treated by an experienced team of medical professionals the moment they arise. For more information on Chapel Hill Detox and our comprehensive program of clinical and medical care, please feel free to reach out today.