How Do I Explain To People Why I'm In Recovery?
I’ll never forget the awkward feelings when I started going to recovery meetings for alcoholism and my roommate would ask where I had been or why I couldn’t join him for evening plans, dinner, or to meet at a bar.
I used to hide my recovery book because I was ashamed of it…I was in 12 step recovery program and I didn’t know a single
I would give vague answers and dodge questions about where I had been or why I couldn’t join him, but I knew I couldn’t keep it a secret forever. So, one night I just blurted out… “Well, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been gone a lot and may have seen this book around the apartment. I need you to know I’ve been attending a 12 step program because I think I’m an alcoholic.” BIG. Cat. Out of the bag.
“Yeah, I thought that might be the case. I’m really proud of you. How has it been? Is it helping? Is there anything I can do?” Of course, I don’t remember all that verbatim…it’s been 11 years… but that was the gist of what he communicated to me…love and support.
This was surprising because it was my drinking buddy’s response! We drank together—for a decade. But there was MUCH more to our relationship than drinking. This guy loved me. He could tell I was hurting and he knew that I had a drinking problem. He was thankful I was getting help, never shaming or condemning.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t everyone’s response. Others said “You’re just going through a hard time; you can drink again,” or “You need to lose yourself in the bottom of a bottle of scotch,” or “Don’t overreact…you’re not an alcoholic - anyone who was going through what you are would feel this way.”
Overreact? I was depressed, suicidal, living on a couch, and losing everything in my life…my house, my job, my relationship, my sanity. I needed recovery from alcoholism and much more. So, I determined: I don’t care what other people say or think; I’m going to get help.
Let’s go back to the question now: How do YOU explain to people why you’re in recovery?
Simply. Humbly. And with certainty.
Then, don’t concern yourself with other’s responses. You aren’t responsible for their responses. This is how you could do it:
Can I talk to you for a minute? I know at some point you’ll likely have more questions and sometimes I’ll be able to answer those, but for right now, I just need you to know that I’m in the middle of something right now. I want to ask for your support and prayers. I’ve realized that I have a serious struggle with ______________:
Pornography, sex addiction, an eating disorder, anxiety, control, relationship addiction, alcohol, weed, K2, meth, depression, suicidal thoughts, anger, rage, racism, unforgiveness, homosexuality, body image, workaholic, gambling, shopping, overeating, lust, pride, gossip, materialism, lying, worry, etc. (sorry if I left out your struggle – nothing personal – but there are too many to list)
So, I’ve committed to going through recovery. It’s humbling to admit this, and it’s not easy going through it, but it’s good and it’s helping. Would you please support me in this? I know you love me and would want to help, so I wanted you to know.”
And what if they respond with:
- You don’t need that!
- What do you mean? Why didn’t you ever tell me?
- How could you do something so disgusting?
- You know that’s a horrible sin or crime, right?
- That’s not a problem; everyone does that – why would you go to recovery for that?
- That won’t help. So-and-so went and they’re worse off now!
- That’s for freaks and addicts; that’s not you!
- Or whatever else people say in their own confusion…
Re-affirm that you feel the need to get help and are going to do so. You do NOT have to refute their objection, shock or disapproval. Just express again what you feel you need to do. Remember, you’re not responsible for their response. For example:
“Thank you for listening to what I needed to share. If you have questions about it, you’re welcome to come with me to a meeting. But this is something I need to do. Someday I’m sure I’ll be able to talk about it more, but for now, thank you for supporting me in this.
You’ll be amazed at peoples’ response. They will support you, encourage you, champion you, pray for you, and maybe even join you. Yes, there were the few that tried to discourage or persuade me otherwise, but the majority – vast majority – were proud of me and excited for me. I began giving weekly updates about what step I was on to those who I knew cared. 99% of people supported me.
And you know what I’ve found? Talking about my struggle and going to recovery for it has been the greatest tool in my life for sharing with others about hope. I tell them about how I found salvation and a new life in Jesus Christ my Lord through my time in recovery. God has used my greatest struggle as His greatest tool to proclaim the hope and promise of a new life in Jesus. Go figure. He’s God right? He redeems everything!!! Even (especially?) telling people you’re in recovery for some struggle.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Share simply, humbly, and with certainty.
I have a new life in Christ and I’m recovering from alcoholism. All glory to God.