Telling those close to you that you’re in addiction recovery can be rather intimidating. While you have probably heard that admitting your addiction is the first step towards recovery, admitting your addiction to yourself can be hard enough. Coming to terms with the fact that you have a substance dependency disorder is a huge step – the idea of telling this to others can lead to anxiety and cause a great deal of stress before certain social events. Your mind might race with a million different questions and “what-ifs”.

“What if someone offers me a drink?” “What if my friends don’t want to hang out with me if I tell them I’m sober – what if they think I’m boring?” “What if I get offered drugs at a party?” You can drive yourself crazy with hypotheticals, but really, those who love you and care about you will always support you working to improve your life. Of course your friends may have questions and you get to decide how and when to answer them. The longer you stay in recovery the better you’ll get at articulating your own reasons for being sober. At Immersion Recovery Center we have compiled a list of tips when it comes to talking with your friends – these are just guidelines and everyone will handle “coming out” as sober a little bit differently.

Just remember above all else you are doing this for your own benefit. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. If you do want to let your friends know that you’re sober though, there are plenty of reasonable and non-intimidating ways to do so.

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Telling Your Friends That You’re Sober

1. Share Your Truth

Honesty is always the best policy. Think about why you decided to get sober in the first place. Your life was probably unmanageable and you probably realized that if you didn’t make a serious change you were going to be miserable forever or wind up dead or in jail. Reflect on your own truth and do what you can to share that with your friends. If you sit down with a close friend and say “Listen, I just finished inpatient drug treatment because I was spiraling out of control. If I continued on the path I was on I would have died. I’ve decided that sobriety is best for me and I hope to have your love and support along the way,” the chances of them laughing in your face are pretty slim. The chances are in fact, that your friends already knew that you had a problem. No matter how good we think we are at hiding our addictions people that know us well will always know when something isn’t right. Sit down and speak your truth. Those that love you will want what’s best for you.

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2. Be Patient

Those who haven’t lived through active addiction won’t understand what it’s like for you. Early sobriety can be difficult and it’s easy to get irritated when people aren’t being considerate or understanding of your struggles. Remind yourself that although your close friends might not personally understand your struggles, they will do everything in their power to try. Be patient and breathe, meditate, and take a walk around the block… do what you need to do for self-care, even if that means putting off the conversation until you feel ready to have it.

3. Be Prepared for a Bunch of Questions

Those that don’t personally understand addiction will probably be curious about your experiences. Realistically the conversation won’t be a short one. “Hey, I’m in addiction recovery.” “Oh, that’s great – enjoy the rest of your day!” Those that care about you deeply will want to make sure that you are okay, and they’ll probably want to know what inpatient rehab was like too (seeing as this a unique experience, and one that people are usually curious about). Consider what questions your friends might ask and think about your own personal boundaries. What questions are you comfortable answering? What questions would you rather avoid? If a friend asks a question you aren’t comfortable answering say something like, “I appreciate your curiosity, but I don’t feel comfortable answering that question right now.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting boundaries and your true friends will respect them!

4. Explain That Who You Are at Your Core Won’t Change.

You might be afraid that your friends will view you differently or that they might think you won’t be the same as you used to be. Maybe they don’t understand addiction recovery and they’re worried that you’re going to become super religious and spend all of your time in AA meetings. Remind your friends that while sobriety is now going to be a big part of your life, it won’t be your entire life. People get sober so that they can actually live their lives – so that they can actually enjoy other things. Explain that you wanted to be the best friend that you could be which is part of the reason why you got clean. Those who are in the throes of active addiction don’t have the capacity to be good friends because they don’t have the ability to be there for others.

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5. Remember That You Don’t Owe Anyone an Explanation

While you might want to tell your close friends about your commitment to a major lifestyle change, there is no rule saying that you have to! You get to decide who you tell, when you tell them, and how you tell them. If you feel like there’s no real reason to tell your non-sober friends straight away then take your time! You might owe some of your close friends an amends but an amends is different than an explanation. Furthermore, you’ll get to making amends during your stepwork. Don’t rush the process! Everything will unfold exactly the way it’s supposed to.

6. Consider the Relationship

You might find that some friends are more supportive and understanding than others. Consider the relationship, and consider the individual. For example, if a friend has a parent that struggled with alcoholism they are more likely to be understanding of your situation. If a friend drinks alcoholically and hasn’t taken any steps towards self-betterment, he or she might not be willing to support you – or even hear you out. Just remember that if someone isn’t supportive it’s because they don’t understand or they’re avoiding taking an honest look at themselves. Also remember that you will always find support and respect within the sober community.

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Sharing your sobriety with others is not a requirement of addiction recovery. However, being honest is a requirement and letting others know where you’re at will likely relieve a great deal of anxiety. Your close friends are good people to tell seeing as they will back you and your self-betterment no matter what. When it comes to telling other people, like acquaintances, co-workers, and extended family members, ask yourself whether or not explaining that you’re in recovery will benefit you or anyone else. If you go to work, do your job, and head home – keeping your career and your social circle separate – then you probably won’t need to tell your co-workers that you’re sober. If your co-workers regularly hit happy hour once the workday ends you might want to tell them that you’re going to skip out because you’re “taking a break from drinking.” Different situations will require different approaches and if you’re still having a difficult time deciding what to do, we are available to help you figure it out.

At Immersion Recovery Center we have extensive experience working with those in early recovery – and much of our staff has been there at one point ourselves. While being honest about your struggles and your recovery can seem intimidating and overwhelming, the vast majority of those you share with will great the news with nothing but admiration.

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