To Tell or Not to Tell… That is the Question

Let there be spaces in your togetherness. -Kahlil Gibran


It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not. -Andre Gide

Twice this week I’ve had conversations about the value of telling people in my life that I am in recovery.  What’s nice about these conversations is that they were rhetorical, and nothing was/is riding on it.  Typically, when I have had these conversations in the past, it was usually an intense “you need to tell them now, or else…!” situation.  No so this week, both times were conversational, a pro and con discussion, and in neither situation was I feeling pressured to do something I did not want to do.

So, mentally, I have been revisiting the subject.  There are numerous people in my life who know nothing of my recovery… non-immediate family on my husband’s side, long-time friends that I only see, infrequently, in group situations, neighbors, kids’ parents with whom I am friendly.  At first, the only people that knew anything of my addiction were told by my husband.  As time went on, I did start to tell people, but I was basically playing “beat the clock” to avoid other people telling my personal story.  I have proactively told people, of my accord, twice.  In each situation, the end result is the same:  all people are supportive, and no one has cut me out of their lives as a result of this revelation.

So why not just tattoo it to my forehead?  Why are there people left who do not know what constitutes such a big part of my life?  As I examine it, there are several factors that prevent me from reaching out to people and letting them know.  The first, and easiest to identify:  sheer laziness.  This is a conversation that takes planning, and I simply don’t feel like taking the time to do it.

Next, and equally important, is the shame factor… it is simply not easy revealing this side of myself.  I have come a long way with this emotion.  Initially, I was ashamed of the whole thing… being an addict, my behavior, and the resulting consequences of my actions.  At this point I have no shame about being an addict, I am genuinely proud of my recovery.  But I still have a great deal of shame with regard to my past actions, and resulting consequences, and this is a factor that holds me back.

Certainly there is a decent-sized dose of fear in the equation… I view several people in the above categories as very, very judgmental, and so I am very, very reticent when it comes to giving these people too much personal information.  I know that small-minded opinions should not matter to me, but I would be less than honest if I did not list this fear as one of the reasons I am holding back.

The last component is my desire to choose those with whom I disclose.  I suffered mentally when that choice had been taken from me in the past, and now that I have been given back this luxury, I really want to have a good reason to exercise my option to self-disclose.  And I really haven’t had a good enough reason to reach out to the remaining people in my life.  That could change when I get up from this computer, but for now I simply haven’t been “feeling’ it” enough.

So I guess I’ll throw it out there to my friends in recovery… what’s your position… Wear the Scarlet Letters (two A’s instead of one!), or It’s none of Your Damn Business?

Today’s Miracle:

In reading back this post, the miracle is the realization that I have come a long way with my feelings of shame… very cool realization indeed!

Posted on March 8, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Just checking in … Congrats on your graduation from your program. I bet they were sad. I’d miss you too if you were gone. I feel honored to have known you this past year, via-blogs but nonetheless honored.

    I feel so simply on this thought and it makes me realize that I have had a similar “miracle” as the one you shared today. (Just don’t remember when, probably several times.)

    Anyhow, like anything in life I share when it fits and don’t when it doesn’t. I share to the depth of the appropriateness of the situation. When I wrote my book I was petrified to share with my name on the cover. It took God a long while to let me see that this was okay. For me it was important to my healing.

    In 12-step we have anonymity for a purposeful and rather important reason, but just because we are sober does not mean we need to keep it private, nor does it mean we need to broadcast from the rooftop.

    People on my street don’t even know I wrote a book, let alone promote sobriety. You are so intuitive, (In my opinion) with such an incredible love of the program. With that going for you it seems all you really need to do is check in with your HP and do what He suggests in any given situation.

    Sorry so long. Good stuff you write 🙂 for me to think about.


  2. i’d say follow your instincts, and it’s easier to tell someone later than it is to un-ring that bell!


  3. I am with Lisa on this idea of sharing “to the depth of of the appropriateness of the situation” (great line), and also with Al’s idea of instinct. I think we all have different circumstances in this department of who and who not to tell. When I first got into recovery, I was truly ready to tell everyone about it…I was on such a high. But I fought that initial burst as I realized that: a) most people don’t care and b) I may cause myself a jam later on. And I am glad I held back. No one outside my immediate family and friends, and my HR dept at work know about my recovery. There are times I am inclined to tell, but I don’t because it’s not anyone’s business. If I were to be asked about it, I may or may not tell someone, but it hasn’t happened yet, so I can’t talk to that experience. I am certainly not ashamed of my recovery or my alcoholic past. I am not worried about others in my industry finding out (most either have an inkling, or it’s already known – my industry has lots of booze and boozing in it), and I don’t worry about my “standing” in the community. I just don’t think most people need to know, or care, for that matter.

    I think why I want to tell people sometimes is exactly what you wrote – it’s because recovery is such a huge part of my life, and want people to know a little bit about me. When people ask what I did on the weekend, I can’t really say “I went to a great AA conference!” or “I hung out with my sponsees and listened to a 5th step!”. “Not much” is about all I say and then scuffle off. None of their business.

    Great post – as usual. Good food for thought 🙂



  4. great post! I’ve been dealing with this too. over Christmas, my husband “broke my anonymity” to somebody I REALLY didn’t want to know, somebody I was hoping to impress with my sheer brilliant wonderfulness. After sulking for twelve hours I realized it had to have been God’s will (isn’t everything?) and that perhaps the humility I received in this situation was what I needed at the moment so I didn’t make an idol out of this person. deep thoughts. but anyway,

    I also had a situation a couple of days ago. We were invited for a cookout by the family we carpool with. Our kids are the same age and are good friends but we’ve never gone over there as a family. The email said, “We can put you in a recliner and give you a glass of wine!” I have two herniated discs in my back and can’t walk or drive so that’s why the recliner. But I thought, you know? I really like these people. They’re good people. I want them to know this about me.

    So I wrote back the recliner is nice but not the wine as I’ve been sober for years (little white lie but I didn’t want her to think i’d driven her kids drunk or anything if she knew it’s only been just shy of six months). And it was cool.

    The thing is I told my son about it—my boys are SO SUPPORTIVE and protective of my soberness. They love it and want to keep it. When I told my son about letting the friends know I am sober I noticed he turned red for an instance—didn’t say anything but he turned red. I said does that embarrass you honey? He said, “No, oh no.” And knowing him as I do I pressed, “are you sure baby because it’s okay if youre embarrassed about it.” And he said, “Yes, a little.”

    So we were able to talk through some thing and then he went to play X Box.

    My biggest shame—you mentioned shame—comes from having been an alcoholic mother. 😦 and wondering how my alcoholism and behavior has affected my children in the long run…I’ll probably never know. but living amends, living amends. life is good.

    Sorry this is so long!!!!


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