Sharing and Stigma
Recovery from substance abuse and addiction can be a long and beautiful journey that you want to share with the world. There is, however, stigma surrounding addiction. A stigma is a cultural perception can create an environment of shame, fear, and silence. This is often why people in recovery often keep their stories and experiences to themselves.
It can be difficult to overcome the feeling of stigma. whether it is substance abuse or an eating disorder. In many instances of mental health, the current culture has long preferred to simply not talk about it. But things are changing. And there is, in fact, power in being vulnerable and sharing your recovery.
Why Sharing is Important for Recovery
First, telling your story can help your own recovery journey. Second, sharing your story can begin to heal the pain your loved ones have experienced from your addiction. And third, being open about your journey can offer encouragement and support to others facing similar struggles.
One of the easiest ways to overcome stigma in these arenas is to change the language that we use around addiction. A recent study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine emphasizes the importance of simple word choices, such as identifying someone as “a person with addiction” rather than “an addict.” This simple adjustment shifts the attention away from shaming the person. Instead, it names the condition they’re struggling with while giving them space to exist apart from it.
Although it may seem daunting, the process of sharing is worth it on many fronts. In fact, if you’re in recovery yourself, sharing your story with others (loved ones and support groups, to start) is one of the most important things you can do!
Sharing Your Story is Important for You
Did you know that sharing the story of your recovery can enhance, underline, and strengthen your own recovery journey?
- Sharing gives space for the importance of your story. If you’re on a recovery journey, it’s likely one of the most defining experiences of your life.
- Sharing makes your recovery more real to you. The Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, for example, highlights how sharing your story allows a person to “’hear themselves’ and confront themselves” in a way that they would be unable to do otherwise.
- Sharing will give an opportunity for others to encourage you. When you share your journey, you will likely receive encouraging words and affirmations, which can strengthen your commitment to recovery.
Sharing Your Story is Important for Others
Sharing doesn’t just have immense benefits for you as the storyteller. It is also a service to others who may be struggling with similar issues. Moreover, your story may come to someone at just the right time who’s just starting down their own healing journey.
Listening to your story can be a tremendous encouragement to those who are struggling with a related issue. Not only does it confirm they are not alone, your story can also give them hope for their own journey. If they see someone walking the path, it may not seem as overwhelming to take the first step themselves.
Another benefit to sharing your story is that it can form lasting relationships, ones that can be reserves of encouragement, solidarity, and accountability. In these friendships, not only can you share your stories, but you can share strategies and coping mechanisms that have been helpful to you. The best practical advice comes from someone who has been there before.
6 Tips to Help You Start the Sharing Process
Choose a Moment That Works for You: When sharing your recovery journey, your mental health should come first. This is why it’s important to be in a good place when you’re thinking about sharing without jeopardizing your sobriety. Be sure to talk to your therapist or mentor to ensure that you’re emotionally ready to open up about your struggle with substance abuse or addiction.
Prepare the Person You’re Speaking With: Before you lay out all the details of your recovery to people, prepare them for the conversation. As calmly as you can, tell them about the truth and realities of addiction. How you tell a story is just as important as the content itself. This may help a person get through emotions they might be feeling as you share.
Be Vulnerable and Honest: To be sure, being vulnerable is difficult. But honesty in recovery is essential to relapse prevention. When speaking with loved ones about your recovery, don’t embellish or hide important parts of the story. Both exaggerating or downplaying these parts, whether to protect others or yourself, doesn’t help anyone. If you don’t think the person can handle the details, reconsider if it’s the right time to tell it, or ask them honestly if they are ready to hear the whole story.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: In your recovery process, it’s important to acknowledge the support system you have. Take an intentional note of the people you turn to for comfort and advice. Remember that these are the people who are cheering for your continued recovery. They’ll also cheer you on to share your journey when it’s the right time.
Accept Responsibility for Your Part: When sharing a recovery story, especially with people who knew you during the addiction, take accountability for things you did. Even if you weren’t in complete control when you did them, taking responsibility is a big step toward honesty and healing. If you articulate what you regret and how you will do better going forward, you make the person listening a promise of responsibility to yourself and them.
Know That Some Relationships Take Time: If you’re telling your story, to someone who might have been hurt by your actions, prepare for some resistance or defensiveness. If you set realistic expectations, you can embrace the fact that regaining trust will take time. You may have spent years deceiving and causing stress during your addiction, so don’t expect all your relationships to heal overnight.
Sharing your story can be a daunting thing to think about, especially early in your recovery. But with the right tools, preparation, and support, sharing your recovery journey may be one of the most rewarding parts of your healing process.
If you’re interested in starting your recovery journey or learning more about how to talk about your struggles, reach out to one of the team members at Alabama Recovery Center today.