Finding The Right Time To Share My Sobriety
Finding The Right Time To Share My Sobriety
In the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to share my sobriety. The first opportunity was a couple of weeks ago, with one of my co-workers. We were talking about Christmas and New Year’s, and started talking about drinking. Our drinking of the past. Our family’s drinking. How we used to drink, but don’t anymore. And out of my mouth came “I don’t drink anymore. I’m an alcoholic”.
This isn’t something I’m ashamed of. I don’t hide it by any means. But, I also don’t shout it from the rooftops either. Part of that reasoning is, I keep my work life and my personal life separate. But also, it’s not something I think about either. I don’t think every day “I’m an alcoholic”, it’s just part of who I am today.
The second conversation happened yesterday with another co-worker. She stopped me on my way back into the store and said “I think I need to congratulate you”. I was puzzled for a second, and then she continued. She heard from another co-worker that I am in recovery, and that I have a birthday coming up soon. Her husband is also in recovery, and she wanted to tell me about a meeting she and her husband go to.
In both conversations, I was proud to call myself an alcoholic. I was proud to say yes, I am an alcoholic, and I am proud to share that today. But, that hasn’t always been the case. When I first got sober, I still had misconceptions about what it meant to be an alcoholic. I wasn’t sure what being an alcoholic meant. And, I wasn’t sure how people would react if they knew. So, I kept it to myself.
The first time I told someone outside of meetings that I was an alcoholic was terrifying. I worked myself into a panic attack just thinking about it. I had decided to start small by telling my uncle. Out of all my uncles, he’s the one who’s been by my side always, so I felt he should know. I felt like he would be supportive, but at the same time I was terrified about what he would think. Would he be supportive? Would he think less of me? I imagined every good and bad scenario possible.
In the end, it was good. My imagined worst case scenarios were just that, imagination. We were talking on the phone one night, and I was telling him about my life. What I had been doing, work, etc. And before I knew it, I was telling him I was an alcoholic. Like, I had just said “the weather here has been great. How about there?” No big deal. He was supportive, and told me he was proud of me, which blew me away.
Next I told my sister and my dad. Once again, worst case scenarios running rampant through my brain. But in the end, I got back love and admiration from them. My dad wrote me a letter and told me how proud he was, which I didn’t expect.
When I was 7 months sober I “came out” on Facebook that I was in recovery. I also told my Assistant Manager and Supervisor at work. Of course, in both instances, I panicked afterward. My immediate thought was “what will they think of me?” But in the end, my manager and supervisor didn’t make a big deal out of it. Again, it was like I said “what do you think about the weather?”
Today I’ve learned that many of my worries and thoughts are imagination. My self-consciousness stems from imagination. My worry of what people will think if they find out I’m in recovery stems from imagination. My fears and doubts stem from imagination. I think a lot of the stigma around addiction starts inside of us. The age-old question of “what do you think of me?” holds us back from speaking up.
Now granted, it took a lot of work on my part to get up the courage to tell others about my sobriety. I had to do a lot of self-searching. A lot of negative ego smashing. And I had to learn how to recognize the difference between reality and imagination. But today, I don’t let the fact that I am an alcoholic define me as a person. Yes, I am an alcoholic, and will be till the day I die. But that is a small chunk of who I am today. It doesn’t define me as a person. If anything, it magnifies my good qualities.
Being in recovery makes me a stronger person today because I know what Hell looks like. I look back at my past, and see ways I can help people, whereas before I only saw misery and destruction. I feel like a super hero some days because my Higher Power gave me a second chance at life, and a second chance to help people. I choose today to use the gift of recovery for good, and share it with others. Not hide it under my pillow, ashamed and scared of what people will think.
So, the next time you start to worry about telling someone you’re an alcoholic, take an inventory. What is your fear?
Are you ashamed? Are you worried they will judge you? Are you worried they will tell the world?
Dig deep and ask yourself why you give a shit. Chances are good that your fears are only imagination. And, chances are good that the person you tell won’t bat an eye. Who knows? You could end up helping them in the long run.
I believe ending the stigma surrounding addiction should start with us. If we all stop carrying the label “alcoholic” like a boulder, and start wearing it like a cape. Stop caring what other people think about us, and start speaking up.
What if we all start living our own truth, and stop worrying about living up to the status quo? You know what I think? I think if we all did that, we could change the world.
Originally published January 4, 2017 – medium.com