Honesty Is a Necessary First Step On the Road to Recovery
Addiction thrives in the darkness. It lurks in the shadowy recesses of the human mind, festering and growing like a mold that threatens to poison everything it touches. The only way to find freedom from the death grip of a drug or alcohol habit is to shine some light on it and expose it for what it is.
When you want to break the chains of addiction, you have to make an honest admission to yourself about the reality of your situation. You have to step out of denial and get in touch with the fact that you are powerless over your substance abuse problem. You also have to be forthcoming with the important people in your life. You simply must stop hiding behind the bottle, the pipe, or the needle. Without honesty, there can be no hope for recovery.
As long as you continue to lie and be deceptive with others about the nature of your struggles with drugs or alcohol, you will continue to spiral out of control. It is only when you openly admit powerlessness that you open yourself up to receiving the help you need. Until you shine the light of recovery on the darkness of addiction, you will remain in bondage.
This First Step Marks the Beginning of A Lifelong Honesty Journey
Sharing openly about the difficulties you have faced as a result of your addiction shouldn’t end just because you stop drinking or using drugs. In fact, your first honest admission about your struggles with substance abuse only marks the beginning of a lifelong journey.
Throughout your recovery, you will have many opportunities to share about your victory over addiction. You may end up speaking publicly at a 12-Step meeting or talking with someone one-on-one who has an addicted family member. Doing this not only deepens the personal freedom you will experience in sobriety, it will also positively impact the way our country collectively thinks about the disease of addiction.
As a recovering person, you have a beautiful opportunity (and many say a responsibility) to influence societal perceptions about substance abuse. The more you tell others about your struggles – and how you overcame them – the less likely people are to be afraid of “people like you.” As a living example of what sobriety is all about, you can replace condemnation with compassion among those who don’t understand this illness.
However, getting clean and coming clean about your life as an addicted person isn’t easy or comfortable. Let’s talk more about this.
Why It Can Be So Difficult To Share Openly With Others About Addiction
We live in a culture that sends mixed messages about people who struggle with substance abuse.
On the one hand, we have organizations like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which define addiction as a complex brain disease. Both are backed by the federal government and promote the idea that addicted people are sick (not bad) people. From this point of view, the government insists that those who are afflicted with this condition desperately need addiction treatment services to recover.
On the other hand, for all intents and purposes, it is illegal to be a drug addict in this country. Those who are caught in possession of drugs like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines are jailed and labeled by the system as criminals. This is because the federal government promotes the idea that people who do drugs are bad and need to be punished. How can this be? If the government says that addiction is a disease, how can the very same government incarcerate addicted people?
This is quite confusing, to say the least. As a result, people everywhere are not quite sure what to think about the nature of addiction. Some say passionately, “It’s a disease! We should treat addicted people with care and compassion!” And the opposing side cries with equal conviction, “Lock them up! Those addicts are a menace to society!” It’s no wonder people are hesitant to open up about their struggles with addiction.
Social Stigma Discourages Addicted People From Wanting To Give Full-Disclosure
Regardless of which side of the fence Americans sit on, one thing is for sure – addiction is shrouded in social stigma. Unless someone truly understands the nature of the disease, the general attitude toward people who have had a problem with drugs or alcohol is, “May God bless and keep them……. far away from me!”
The idea here is that there is something wrong, shameful, sinful, bad, or dirty about being addicted to drugs or alcohol. Because there is so much misinformation out there, most people are misinformed or even downright ignorant when it comes to the disease of addiction. They think substance abuse is the result of a lack of moral character, not a definable disease. Hence, an overwhelming majority of people look down on those who have been addicted and judge them harshly.
This is unfortunate. Drug addiction runs rampant in the United States and the problem is only getting worse. As reported by CNN, 64,070 people died from a drug overdose in 2016. This is a 21 percent increase from the year before. It is also the highest number of overdose deaths reported in a single year in the history of the United States. There has never been a more critical time to bring the topic of substance abuse out of the darkness into the light of day.
We need to be talking about it. YOU need to be talking about it!
Addiction Is Not Something Most People Want To Talk About
The sad fact is that most people would prefer to ignore the far-reaching impact substance abuse has on individuals and families around the country. After all, discussions about the reality of opioid overdoses, the pain of meth withdrawal, and the craziness that comes with a crack pipe don’t make for fitting lunch conversation. A solution to the so-called seedy underbelly of the drug culture, many think, is better left for the experts to discuss over coffee at rehabilitation centers.
Think about it. Most people who are related to an addict or alcoholic prefer to keep this information under wraps. For example, parents typically hide the truth about their drug-addicted son or daughter because, after all, “What would people think?” They don’t want their neighbors to “look down on them” when – little do they know – their neighbor’s son or daughter is also addicted to drugs.
Additionally, people often overlook drug abuse in the workplace. God forbid anyone should mention that Tom, the leading sales rep in the company, sneaks drinks all day at work and is completely intoxicated by day’s end. And, few co-workers confront the nurse who steals pills from her patients, the lawyer who trades cocaine in exchange for representing a client, and the kindergarten teacher who is hooked on prescription opioids. All too often, when it comes to the very important topic of addiction among professionals, most people would prefer to look the other way.
Why is this?
The Fact is, We MUST Become Willing To Change Our Attitudes About Addiction
Why are we so unwilling to talk about the fact that young people are using drugs in record numbers? Why aren’t more people motivated to discuss how drug abuse costs employers approximately $81 billion a year in productivity loss? Why aren’t people lining the streets and screaming about the reality that 64,000 people a year are dying because of the disease of addiction? The answer to all three of these questions is the same: talking about addiction is uncomfortable….. but so what?
When it comes to the national attitude of “let’s not talk about addiction,” it’s high time (no pun intended) that we change this way of thinking. No more silence. No more looking the other way. Keeping quiet about how the disease of addiction continues to erode the American way of life is doing us no favors.
The only way we will see a positive impact in how our country thinks about addiction is how we talk about it. We have to become willing to speak freely about how addiction affects the individual, their families, the workplace, and society as a whole. This starts with you. By sharing your personal struggles with addiction – and openly celebrating the fact that you live a sober lifestyle – you can become an agent of change.
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In Your Everyday Life, You Will Be Surrounded By People Who Don’t “Get” You
The beauty of attending an anonymous 12-Step meeting is that you can feel free to share openly about your experience with addiction without fear of judgment. You do not have to give your last name, tell anybody where you work, or reveal where you live. For one hour, you are simply a human being seeking a solution to the disease you live with on a daily basis.
In a meeting, you are in good company because you are surrounded by people seeking the same solution. But, the truth is, you only spend a small chunk of time with these people on a daily basis. Most of your time is spent “in the real world” with people who are misinformed about this disease.
You may not feel so motivated to be open about your recovery status with certain family members, friends, romantic partners, or people you work with. This is understandable. We have talked about the social stigma associated with addiction and explained that many people keep quiet about their sobriety for fear of judgment. Nevertheless, we want to encourage you to live out loud when it comes to what you have been through and how far you have come.
Some Words of Advice About Sharing Honestly About Your Struggles With Addiction
We’re not telling you to broadcast to the entire office, “Hey, everyone! I just wanted you to know I used to bang heroin and I am clean now!” Being honest does not necessarily mean announcing your recovery status to every person you meet. In fact, this would probably be a mistake.
However, there will be times in your life when the topic of addiction comes up. Maybe someone will express concern to you about a loved one having a substance abuse problem. Perhaps someone in the office will be making fun of people who have a drug problem by calling them “junkies.” Or, you may overhear people doubting the validity of the disease concept.
Whatever the situation may be, when you have the opportunity, you can make a positive impact on the way people think about addiction. You can say something like, “You know, I used to struggle with substance abuse, but I am clean now. If you want to know more, I would be happy to tell you about it. I think you have been misinformed about the nature of the disease of addiction. It’s a major issue in our country and I think it is important that people get all the facts.”
No Shame In Your Game – You Are a Warrior
Generally speaking, it is nobody’s business that you were once addicted to drugs or alcohol – unless you make it their business. You never have to reveal to anyone that you are in recovery unless you want to. Nevertheless, when the situation presents itself, we hope you be brave and share openly about your personal experience with addiction and sobriety.
We must create a paradigm shift in how our country perceives addiction. This responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of everyone who has been affected by substance abuse. Each one of us CAN make a difference in our own way.
Although you may not realize it, you stand to serve as a beacon of hope for many others who are addicted themselves or have a loved one who is struggling with the disease of addiction. Remember, there is absolutely no shame in having this illness. It is a recognized medical condition.
It takes a very strong person to pull themselves up from rock bottom and get their life back on track. You should feel proud of who you are – NOT ashamed. You are a victorious warrior! Share your story!