Talking openly about recovery from a mental health or substance use disorder is a big step and can often make a person feel vulnerable, anxious, or scared. Finding the right time and the right words to speak openly with friends and family can be difficult, yet it is an essential component of long-lasting wellness.
According to data by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 4 million Americans received treatment for substance abuse in 2017. Although seeking treatment is an important step, sharing it with loved ones can be challenging. Many people going through recovery feel uncomfortable talking about their journey with family or friends because they don’t want to be labeled or looked at differently by the people that care about them. Maybe they don’t know that you’re in recovery. Maybe they do, but you haven’t talked about it with them. Maybe they’ve asked you about it, and you aren’t sure what to say. Whatever the reason is, talking about your journey is an important step in establishing open communication with your support system when you feel comfortable.
“When people seek treatment, they’re just beginning to understand how to have that conversation,” says Crystal Smith, Vice President of Substance Use Disorders at Pillars Community Health. “The first step is caring for yourself. Invite other people into the conversation when you’re ready.”
If you feel ready to talk to your family or friends, consider preparing a few questions in advance of your conversation. Start with those people you love and trust. Here are a few thoughts to get you started:
- Whom do I want to tell first? – Choose someone in your life that you feel comfortable talking to. It could be a friend, a family member, or someone else you feel close to. This is an important first step: once you feel comfortable talking to one person, opening up to others may not seem as hard.
- When is the best time to reach this person/persons to grasp their full attention and support? – Make sure to talk to your friend or family member at a time where both of you can fully focus on the conversation. You deserve their undivided attention, just as they deserve yours.
- What do I need from my family and friends? – Your family and friends want to see you succeed, and they want to support you on your journey. Be sure to let them know how they can help support you.
- What don’t I need from my family and friends? – Is there something you’d rather that they don’t say or do? A question you’d prefer that they don’t ask? Make sure to let them know this.
- What can we do together to ensure success? – It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Family, friends, and community resources are available to help you along the way. Making a plan to reach success together can help bring you closer to your loved ones during this time.
Talking about recovery and substance use can also help to eliminate stigma and increase awareness in the community. “The important thing is broadening that support network,” says Smith. “The more [people] talk about it, the more the community is educated.”
If you or someone you know would benefit from our services, please reach out for help. You are not alone, and recovery is possible. Pillars Community Health offers many Mental Health and Addictions services, including same-day assessments, access to other resources, and more. Click here for more information.