Talking about recovery

Friends, family, employers, and even other recovering people may not fully understand or accept MAT. People who choose MAT often deal with misinformation, stigma, and even discrimination.

Deciding who to share your plans with and what to say can be tough.

Before you open up about your decisions, take the time to think about who you want to know, how much you want to tell them, and when you want to talk with them. It is important to be sure the people you tell will respect your privacy, even if they do not fully understand your decision.

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Old friends and new connections

Does recovery mean you have to let go of people you sincerely care about just because they use? The idea in recovery is to bring people into your life, not to cut them out. It will pay off to invest most of your time in increasing your contact with people who can strengthen your recovery.

Of course, there may be some people that you have used with that you will be happy to avoid. Others may seem impossible to give up. There may be no need to cut them out of your life if you can see them in situations where you will not be tempted use.

It can be helpful to reconnect with friends you knew before you started to use. Some of them will be glad to hear from you and happy that you are making changes. Some of them may have reasons to be upset with you, but if they are willing to set the past aside, you may be able to rebuild the friendship.

What to share

Deciding who to tell about your treatment is very personal. You have a right to your privacy, but you may also feel a need to let some people know. Try not to let shame, pride, or the fear of disappointing those close to you hold you back from having support from those who can help you in your recovery.

As a guide, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who needs to know?
  • How much do they need to know?

It is useful to have a brief explanation prepared in advance. It can be as simple as, “I found a treatment approach that works for me.” You do not have to tell your story or go into detailed explanations. You are in control of how much information you share.

Your employer: Most people would rather not tell an employer about MAT, especially if the information could end up in a personnel file. An exception is when a boss knows you have a drug problem and has requested or required you to get help. In that case, it may be important to let the boss know you are in treatment, but ask yourself: Does my boss really need to know details about my treatment?

Your sponsor: Some people who choose MAT also attend 12-step meetings and work with a sponsor. Some sponsors understand and accept MAT; others do not. If you have a sponsor who is not supportive, ask yourself: What do I want from a sponsor?

Dating partners: Honesty is part of healthy relationships. But it has risks, too. When a relationship begins to get serious, you may consider saying something about MAT and recovery. Before you do, ask yourself: Is the benefit greater than the risk?

Family: Some family members are supportive, but some are not. If you have supportive relatives that you think will stand by you, it may be beneficial to talk with them. You may have other family members who are likely to criticize and disapprove. Before you tell those family members, ask yourself, “Do I expect them to change?” You may be positively surprised by the reaction of some family members. Be prepared and know who you can turn to for support when you need it.

Children: Some people in recovery feel they need to tell their children about their drug use. Others do not feel their children need to know, and some think it could be harmful for them to find out. Every family situation is different. Before you talk with your children, ask yourself: Who can I talk with about what is best for my children?

Others: Reaching out to other people in your life who could become allies is an excellent strategy for building your support network. Addiction touches the lives of many families, and you probably know people who can relate to your situation. Ask yourself: Who might become an ally?

When to share

Not only do you want to consider who to talk to, you also want to think about the best time to talk to them.

Here are some tips for when to talk to others about MAT.

Before you start MAT: Talk with people you want to help with your decisions about treatment. If you need rides or other practical help, ask people in advance. Asking for help can be difficult, but it is an important skill for people in recovery.

During early treatment: After you have started treatment and are feeling better, you may decide some people you are close to need to know. If you start with the people who are the easiest to tell, you will be in practice by the time you get to the more challenging ones.

Later: It may be best to wait until you are further along in recovery and have some time free from using substances before talking to people who may not be supportive. They might see things differently if they know you have something that is working for you.

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What do I say to my family and friends about being in recovery?