There you are, standing by the buffet table at your grandmother’s house, when Uncle Fred slips up beside you and says, “So! You’re fresh out of rehab! How ya’ feelin’?” Now what? Whether you’re gathered with family during the holiday season or helping your cousin move across town, don’t be surprised if people want to know about your recovery experience. Here are ways you can control the conversation.
Remember: It’s Your Story
One critical point to remember when discussing your journey with relatives, or anyone, is that you have every right to be as open or as private as necessary. Too often, especially as social media makes it commonplace for some people to share every weensy detail of their lives, we feel compelled or even pressured to discuss how we feel or think, even when we don’t want to.
In an article for Learning Mind, site founder and author Anna LeMind provides a definition of a private person, with characteristics such as:
- They don’t like the attention of the spotlight.
- They think carefully before speaking.
- They’re great at keeping secrets.
- They have strong personal boundaries.
- They’re not big into social media.
- They enjoy existing in a quiet world.
- They’ll open up just fine…to the right people.
If any of these personality traits resonate with you, it’s unlikely you’ll be eager to answer Uncle Fred’s question with any more detail than, “I’m fine. Thank you for asking.” He might press on, but mental health therapist Jennifer Rollin says it’s important to establish boundaries. Here are three methods:
- Listen to your inner sense of yes and no to understand how to proceed
- Learn how to tolerate others’ reactions without feeling a need to cater to them
- Continue to focus on your self-care to develop stronger knowledge of what matters to you
You can be kind, but firm. If you really don’t want to answer any more questions about your experiences, regardless of the setting or reasoning, simply say so: “Thank you for asking. I appreciate your concern. I’d rather not talk about it right now, but perhaps we can discuss it in the future.”
Choosing to Open Up
If you feel it’s important to share your recovery story, especially if Uncle Fred or someone else has more questions, there are other variables to consider.
- Are you close to Uncle Fred or any of the other relatives who might inquire about your experience? Your shared relationship, how much they understand about you, and if they’ve helped you in any way all contribute to your willingness to open up.
- Is this the right moment? Discussing your stay at an inpatient rehabilitation facility while choosing between mashed and sweet potatoes might make you feel uncomfortable, and rightfully so. But if Uncle Fred’s intentions are sincere, suggest that maybe the two of you take a walk later or meet up for coffee to discuss it.
- Is it important to you to share the facts about addiction? Maybe you’d prefer that people not use the terms “alcoholic” or “addict”. Or you’d like to clear the air on some myths surrounding the disease. Perhaps it’s critical that they understand why you can’t have “just one drink”. You don’t have to be a spokesperson if you don’t want to—simply starting an honest dialogue might be enough.
- Maintain a calm demeanor and present your position without accusation or conjecture. If it’s necessary to have more in-depth conversations where actions, behaviors, and other issues have to be addressed, do so in a therapeutic setting.
Possible Benefits of Talking to Your Relatives
Talking to your relatives about your recovery might be a catalyst to greater bonding, too. The family’s role in addiction recovery is powerful. It might surprise you to learn that other members of the family were affected by your condition and are ready to heal and move forward. For example, Uncle Fred might be your mother’s brother and may have witnessed the trials your family went through. Now you can discuss those times calmly with an eye on the future.
Your courage to seek treatment might also be a source of inspiration for someone else. We don’t always know what troubles another individual experiences—after all, they might be a private person who doesn’t want people in their business. Maybe even a casual conversation about how you’ve chosen to explore spirituality to support your recovery sparks action for someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.
It’s also possible that your openness will help your relatives understand how you need to navigate a life without substances and how they can help. Maybe you want to plan a sober New Year’s Eve celebration and need their ideas. Or you’d like them to understand how to help you avoid relapse, especially in the early stages of recovery or during times of high stress.
More often than not, if you ask the right people to help you live healthfully, they’ll eagerly jump at the chance to be of service. Whether you choose to talk about your addiction recovery, keep your heart open and show goodwill if people express genuine interest in your well-being.
Support, Encouragement, and Guidance
No matter what tough or awkward conversations you might have in the future about your choice to abstain from alcohol or drugs, Willingway wants to make sure to provide as much as we can to enable your wellness. Review other blog posts, our Facebook page, and consider attending one of our weekly continuing care groups.