Published on July 28th, 2015 | by Mel Collins
Owning Your Past – Self-Disclosing Addiction Issues
Everyone knows that admitting to an addiction is the first step to helping yourself overthrow that addiction. However, while admitting your issues to yourself may well be the hardest and most productive self-disclosure you’ll go through during your recovery, there remains the thorny question of how (and if) to tell others. Many recovering addicts, racked by shame and remorse at the past state of their affairs, feel it required upon them to tell everyone they meet about their issues in the name of ‘honesty’. However, if self-disclosure is not done in the right fashion, this kind of compulsive ‘honesty’ in reality simply means that one’s addiction is still ruling one’s life. While honesty (both with oneself and others) is almost certainly the best policy, the manner in which such disclosures occur – on both a professional and personal level – is extremely important.
Society frowns upon substance abusers. This attitude can lead former or recovering abusers down one of two paths. Either they take the ‘repentance’ route, wherein they broadcast their issues from the rooftops and play up their remorse, or they hide their addict status in the fear that it will damage their professional relationships. Both approaches have something to be said for them – honesty is admirable, and it’s true that disclosing former addict status unnecessarily may have professional impacts which really aren’t relevant. However, neither approach involves ‘owning’ one’s past and integrating it healthily with one’s present. Nobody should feel forced by shame to spend their entire life apologising for the person they were when under the influence. Nor should they feel forced to effectively sweep their past beneath the carpet. Instead, people should disclose former issues in a calm and confident manner, as and when they feel safe doing so, to people whom they trust.
Self-disclosure is a very personal thing, and the discloser should always feel in control of the situation. The person being told should always be someone whom the former addict trusts, and feels safe with. The disclosure should come out of a place of friendship and pure honesty, not out of a place of shame, or anger, or any other negative emotion. Your past is your own, and it should not be presented to others for the purpose of their judgement, or for their approval of your bravery in overcoming it. For more on this, read this article.