If you have recently been admitted to an addiction recovery center, the approaching holidays might be a source of anxiety as the prospect of talking to your extended family and friends looms over you.
Here is the good news: The more you talk about your experience, the easier it gets. Due to the societal stigma, it is important to remember that you are not alone. More people than we realize struggle with addiction or are affected by it in some way. Similar to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, addiction simply is not talked about enough.
The Benefits of Honesty
Being honest about your addiction and recovery when talking with your loved ones can be more than just pushing through an uncomfortable conversation. You could be:
- Setting a precedent for those who might be in the same boat as you or who might come after you
- Doing your part in resisting the unjust societal stigma surrounding addiction
- Finding another source of support and accountability as you proceed with your recovery journey
- Moving further away from past habits that enabled your drug abuse—including secrecy, deception, and denial
- Strengthening the relationship by being vulnerable about your struggles
Handling Unsupportive and Insensitive Family or Friends
While it is often best to give others the benefit of the doubt, there are bound to be a few people who will not respond in a way that is encouraging or respectful to your recovery. Usually, these people will be coming from a place of fear sparked by their love for you, a place of ignorance stemming from a lack of awareness and education, or a place of insecurity because they can see themselves in the issues you are tackling.
The following are some tips to arm yourself with if you get placed next to that one cousin always posts insensitive articles about addiction on Facebook:
- This person is reacting in this negative way due to their feelings of either fear, ignorance, or insecurity. Try to bring into the conversation why they responded that way. Give them an opportunity consider your perspective and a chance to apologize.
- Know your facts. Check out our post on common addiction myths that have been busted, and pull up the sources if you need to!
- Prior to the holiday event, check in with a trusted loved one who will also be attending and explain to them the situation you are anticipating. They can be ready to jump in and support you if need be, and might be able to offer a perspective you have not considered before.
- Practice this conversation with your recovery treatment team, therapist, a trusted loved one, or a sponsor. This can help you feel less attacked by people who aren’t as supportive as you had hoped. If you are prepared to respond to negativity about your recovery, you won’t be tempted to take it personally.
- If the conversation continues to go poorly or if you already know that you are not currently at a place where you could have a mature discussion, do not hesitate to avoid the situation. There is a time and place for everything. Sometimes, what is best for your emotional, physical, and social health is to just get some space. Nobody needs to seek out negative energy or triggering events.
No Matter What Happens, Be Proud of the Progress You’ve Made
You still have some time before you’re likely to be seated around the dinner table with your well-meaning but often clueless relatives. Use this to your advantage! You can’t control how others will react to your story, but you can work on making the best of your own healing journey.
Knowing that you are in recovery should make you feel proud of the progress you have made, and of the humility and courage it took to admit your mistakes and actually do something about it.
Note: If your loved one is in an inpatient residential treatment and the inevitable conversation about them is causing you distress, check out The Elephant in the Room to learn how you can respectfully cover the subject.