What’s wrong, are you sure you don’t want a drink? If you are in recovery, you have probably heard this a lot more times than you can recall. Also, you might have been slightly accused of killing the vibe in a gathering by refusing a drink. Ordinarily, such a scenario could be easier and less awkward if you tell everybody that you are in recovery for sobriety. But for some reason, you have not – well, not yet.
Your reluctance to do so is quite understandable. Despite being a widespread health disorder in the United States, the vast population is yet to acknowledge alcohol and drug addictions as legitimate illnesses. Most people feel like an addiction is a mess addicts get themselves into as a result of being irresponsible; thus, they do not deserve empathy. To that end, individuals who suffer from these addictions are mostly viewed with disdain and condescension. Consequently, they feel less confident in themselves, and their self-esteem might drop significantly.
Again, things could have been easier for people in recovery if this stigma ends at the point of active addiction, but unfortunately, it is not so. In the early stages of recovery, it is not unusual to suffer from some degree of guilt and shame about the past. Most times, people’s attitudes toward recovering addicts amplify these feelings more.
“Addiction stigma is a very real thing, even for people who have overcome their addictions and have started new lives for themselves. Being stereotyped or discriminated against due to a history of addiction can contribute to poor mental health, embarrassment, and even a lower quality of life,” says Mathew Gorman, CEO of Eudaimonia Recovery Homes.
The transition back to society, be it at work, school, or one’s residential community are sometimes rife with stigma and embarrassment. If you talk about being sober, people are bound to stop and assess you and make comparisons between your past and the present. Employees and co-workers are bound to probe you now and again. More so, they’ll continuously scrutinize your overall performance at work.
It is a period that can make you feel overwhelmingly vulnerable, accompanied by the pressure trailing you everywhere, every time. This is not to say that you will be getting only negative attention from people around; surely, you will be getting positive attention. However, most recovering addicts are somewhat unprepared for any form of smothering attention. Hence, most will prefer to keep their sobriety quiet and private for a long while, until they are ready to go public with it.
The truth is, the experience of one recovering addict is likely to differ from the other. While one recovering addict appreciates all the attention and sees it as a reason to improve on their sobriety, the other might feel overwhelmed and pressured by this same level of support or recognition.
Whatever your experience and your perception of those experiences are, it is advisable to go public with sobriety, especially with the people that matter in your life. With time, you can extend the gesture to the public. In all, it will help smoothen your transition to normal life, an experience where you don’t have to feel like an awkward exception due to your sobriety.
So, When Is The Right Time To Go Public With Your Sobriety?
The best time to go public with sobriety is when you are comfortable with the idea of going public. It is that simple.
There are no static rules that say you must go public at a particular time, in a precise manner. But, we all acknowledge that going public has the potential to make you more resolute and steadfast in achieving your sobriety goals. Therefore, when you start entertaining the idea, it is vital to know that you are ready to go public. Your readiness influences your perception towards the attention you may or may not receive – either in the light of positivity or negativity.
The checklist below can help you re-examine yourself to determine if it is the right time for you to go public with sobriety.
How’s the journey been so far?
If sobriety has been a very shaky and unstable ride for you, you probably need to put a lot more effort into getting yourself together before going public. Most recovering addicts prefer to go public after the first year of sobriety; when they feel more confident about their stance.
Are you still immersed in the guilt and shame of the past?
It is not unusual to feel some regret, shame, or other forms of mental stress when you reflect on your past life. For recovering addicts, the feeling can be overwhelming and tends to make them reclusive. Going public doesn’t seem to be the best idea if you find yourself still in such a position.
When you go public, there are chances that you might put yourself at risk of being perpetually criticized or treated with indifference by those who still indulge. Some persons might even consider your sobriety as an unnecessary charade.
And when you begin to consider these, and many other occurrences in that timeframe, the pre-existing guilt, regret or shame might create room for more emotional/mental distress. It puts you in a vulnerable position that you might not be ready to face yet.
Have you made peace with change?
Being sober comes with changes that could affect all aspects of your life, from simple activities to complex societal interactions. You could lose friends, abandon favorite hangout spots, and for some reason, you might have to start a new job. Some recovering addicts even relocate to a new city to be able to deal with their recovery appropriately.
You will have to make peace with whatever change you are adapting to during recovery, and see it as the new or current norm before going public. Remember, you only want to go public when you are comfortable with the notion. Hence, you have to address your well-being accurately before making a move.
Does your lifestyle require frequent attendance at social events?
This is mostly applicable to recovering addicts who work in the arts and entertainment industry. If your job or career was a significant risk factor for your addiction, it might be necessary to go public as early as possible. That way, you won’t always have to explain to people at every event that you are sober. You don’t have to keep rejecting drinks or puffs, and providing reasons for doing so.
By going public with sobriety, you rely on the hopeful chance that individuals in your circle will respect your decision, and not impose on you.
Are your intentions for going public purposeful?
Do you want to go public? Do you consider going public as a rite of passage into the hall of fame of recovered addicts? Or is it a necessity?
For some individuals, going public is an utter necessity, while it isn’t for some others. You have probably realized that it doesn’t make any difference whether you go public or not, or you want to do it without seeing any reason.
If the latter is your case, then a pointer can help you make going public with sobriety more purposeful. First off, you should note that going public with sobriety doesn’t necessarily have to be on a large scale, say, on social media with all the whistles and jingles. You can channel it to a targeted community, where your announcement/story can help people who are suffering from addiction to go sober.
Also, such publicity doesn’t have to be one that puts you in a position of moral arrogance with sprinkles of condescension on those who are still suffering from addiction. Instead, it should be one that comes from a place of warmth and love, and a willingness to help those who still suffer the afflictions of addiction. While at it, there are chances that a few addicts might come to you for a guiding hand out of their drug or alcohol addiction. At such a point, it is crucial to remember and recommend the first step to addiction recovery. That is, a medically-supervised drug detox procedure in an authorized addiction recovery center, with all the necessary facilities and services, as well as a peaceful environment that enables a lifetime recovery. Also, if you find it challenging to deal with the changes that come with addiction recovery, it might be in your best interest to talk to a recovery specialist.