Honesty Vs. Privacy

If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you. –Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As a person in recovery, the question “to tell or not to tell” comes up quite a bit.  For me, at nearly 11 months of continuous sobriety, everyone in my immediate family and closest friends knows about my journey through active addiction, and through my recovery thus far.  Truth be told, I went kicking and screaming through most of these revelations, because the decision to tell had not been made by me.  But I realize now the benefits of telling the people closest to you the truth of addiction, and the struggles and hard work that go hand in hand with achieving sobriety.

So what’s left for me to decide is this… what about the people who are in my life in a more peripheral way?  Case in point:  for the past two years, for one recovery-related reason or another, I have missed an annual Christmas party attended by a large group of long-time friends.  One of these friends, whom I have known for decades but rarely see, asked my very close friend if anything was wrong, since I have missed the event two years running.  He said nothing was wrong, but that I had a previous engagement (which was the truth for this year, but untrue for the year prior).  He shared with me that he felt a bit of discomfort in not being able to share what was going on with me.

I can completely understand where he is coming from, and I feel badly that I have put him (or anyone else in my life) in this situation.  However, this is my point of view:  the news of my addiction, and my recovery, is intensely personal, and it is one I would like to share on my own, rather than have someone tell my story for me.  Especially with people I do not see as often, I feel the best qualified to explain what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now.

I have also had the opportunity to discuss this very issue with many members in my Fellowship, who largely share the same opinion: recovery is personal, and it is up to each individual when, if and how they will disclose such personal information.

For each person in my life whom I have NOT told, there are all sorts of reasons… concern about their knowledge and understanding of addiction, simple logistical issues, even concern about negative consequences.  So the question on the table is this:  by failing to tell someone I am in recovery, am I being dishonest, or am I making a personal choice, for the time being, not to disclose personal information?

Posted on December 13, 2012, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Many issues are personal. We “get” to chose what we tell others. Not everything is everyone’s business under the disguise of “honesty.” Sometimes the truth is, “I prefer you don’t mention anything to them as show of love toward me.” A true friend honors where we are in our evolution/recovery. Their ability to honor your request speaks about them. Your ability to love them regardless of the choice they make speaks of you.


  2. Thanks for you blog. You cover some great topics! This one hit home for me recently because I was on the other end of it. The husband of one of my closest friends committed suicide and the family felt shame and chose not to tell the truth about the cause of death. With nearly 10 years of recovery, I didn’t want to be part of this fabrication, but of course it was not my place to say anything different. So when people asked, and many did, my response was “The family is not ready to talk about it.” I recommended to my friend, perhaps it would be useful to determine who was asking simply out of curiousity and who would actually be there physically, emotionally, and spiritually to support her during this time of grief. My friend is not in program thus does not have this amazing foundation and incredible support system from which to make difficult life decision


    • Cindy, thanks so much for sharing that story, it really is interesting to hear it from the other side. I for one appreciate the way you handled it, to me you sum it up perfectly… you can disagree with the way someone is handling a situation, but you completely respect their right to handle it! And you are able to deflect without feeling dishonest. That is really helpful, thanks so much!


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