Working a program requires a unique head space. It’s like all normal decision-making gets turned upside down, and recovering addicts find themselves reeling and relying on counselors for how to manage difficult thoughts. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s expected and a healthy part of healing. But a big part of recovery is bridging the gap between treatment and our real lives. Real lives mean family, and families represent a significant piece of our identity. So how, exactly, should an addict waltz up to their grandparents and explain their triumph over heroin addiction? How does one go about being honest to family about your recovery?
Families Exist for Support
There’s no easy way to put it: some people get stuck with terrible relatives. It’s just the ugly truth. But not all families, especially as a whole, deserve such a bad rap. Having traditional values does not necessarily translate to extended relatives showing judgment or cruelty. Plenty of older grandparents, aunts/uncles, and other family may not understand addiction, but they can be educated with the right approach. Because ultimately, families exist for support.
Many recovering addicts automatically assume that their family will not understand their recovery. So how can they support it, especially considering the terrible stigma around the disease of addiction? The fear around divulging such sensitive information feels overwhelming. But often, recovering addicts underestimate their relatives. Empathy naturally runs between family members, so being part of their family often works to your advantage.
Disclosing Struggles May Bring You Closer
Typically, the bond of family means that your relatives treat you with a higher degree of familiarity and care. They listen to you more closely than they would to a stranger. After all, you’re presumably in their lives indefinitely and your relationship to them means something, right? Most adults understand that it behooves them to maintain a positive relationship with you. Keeping tabs on you helps them see you grow and change.
And recovery is part of that growth process. Although it may feel embarrassing or shameful to share your struggles with alcoholism or drug addiction, you may be surprised at how accepting and sympathetic your family receives such news coming from you. Oftentimes, disclosing struggles brings people closer together. You may be surprised to learn that your family member has also had struggles with substance abuse. For those less familiar with the disease, the stigma against it mostly exists in a vacuum. Once they put a face to it (particularly the face of a family member they care about), it suddenly becomes real. And for family members capable of empathy, their care for you as family supersedes prejudice. Results may vary, but don’t discount the possibility that being honest brings you closer.
Your Family Loves You for You
Being honest to family about your recovery is a difficult step. But many recovering addicts find that it is a necessary bridge to gap at some point. The human desire to be understood and accepted by our groups acts as a strong influence in the way we behave.
And that goes both ways. Your family loves you for you. Although it’s impossible to brush broad strokes on how honesty plays out, being earnest about the effort you’ve put in helps. It communicates to your family that you are serious about getting well and managing your disease. Most mature adults understand that we all have different ways of handling what’s given to us. You deserve credit for working to better yourself, so don’t sell yourself short when being honest to family members about your recovery.
The specific fears of revealing recovery to families vary with the nature of your relationship to the person. Parents have a very different set of concerns when it comes to divulging their recovery to dependents, especially young children.
Since these situations vary so widely, it’s helpful to seek insight from others who have been through it in their own personal lives. Alcoholics Anonymous offers a great fellowship community for such questions. Although meeting forums do not encourage cross talk directly, it’s common for recovering alcoholics and addicts to share their fears and request advice once the meeting is over. Therapists also offer resources for how to approach these situations.
Being Honest to Family about Your Recovery
There is no timeline for being honest to family about your recovery. Although counselors usually encourage immediate family counseling during treatment (as addiction is a family disease), it can take time to work up the resolve to be so forthcoming with extended family. But this step often helps solidify recovery for people in the long term; once it becomes more widely known, your recovery journey seeps deeper into your identity. And that is a vital part of staving off relapse. Consider how being honest with your family will help you come to terms with your recovery more holistically.
If you or a loved one is seeking help for a substance abuse problem, our addiction counselors are available 24/7 by phone: (833) 433-0448