I have no problem telling anyone I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict. It’s a disease just as diabetes and Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy. It is what it is… no need to pretend like it doesn’t exists. Anyone who knows me is grateful I realize I have it. That was the first step in “getting better”.
Admitting that you’ve struggled with alcohol or drugs is a lot less shameful than it used to be. But despite enormous strides in pop culture and science, coming clean still isn’t always easy.
In the pantheon of difficult things to talk about, admitting that you’re a recovering alcoholic probably falls somewhere between “I have a tattoo” and “I’m a serial killer” on the shameful revelation scale. After all, alcoholism is a disease, according to the American Medical Association, like diabetes or arthritis—a painful but treatable illness. Except, of course, that addiction is different. People don’t tend to weep when you tell them you have arthritis.
Everyone likes a drink from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with this so long as the situation is under control. However, over time, there is a risk that drinking alcohol regularly and persistently could morph from a harmless bit of fun to an increasingly important part of your life. As alcohol gains prominence in your life, so too do the odds of alcohol addiction.
The fact is that those who develop a reliance on alcohol often try to rationalize their drinking. They’ll say it helps to calm them down, that it helps them sleep or that they could stop whenever they want. This inability to accept the truth of the situation can rapidly lead to “underground drinking.”
Perhaps you already know the feeling. You’re worried about what your family, friends and work colleagues might say about the volume of alcohol you’re now drinking, so you start to find ways to conceal the situation.
Perhaps you have alcohol stashed away at home where it can’t be measured. Maybe you’ve become adept at brushing your teeth or sucking a mint after a drink so people cannot smell alcohol on your breath. And maybe you’ve started making excuses about working late so that you can pop to the pub for a drink before getting home in the evening.
However, hiding your drinking can be a big mistake. If you’re concealing your consumption of alcohol right now, there are some reasons why you should consider coming clean to those who care about you.
Sooner or later most alcoholics realize just how much of a negative impact their drinking is having on their life. As a result, many alcoholics will make a genuine and concerted effort to cut down on their alcohol consumption – or quit altogether.
However, the truth of the situation for those with an alcohol reliance is that this detox process can be a tough experience both mentally and physically. Even merely attempting to cut down on your drinking can cause unpleasant side effects that require a lot of discipline to overcome.
Have you heard the stories of people who smoke all their lives, only for a friend of theirs to drop dead from lung cancer? The next day they quit smoking without problems, take up running and the next thing you know they’re the healthiest person around. That one giant shock was enough for them to transform their lives – after literally decades of wallowing and half-hearted attempts at quitting smoking.
So it is with so many other things – including seeking addiction treatment. It’s just so easy to continue down the same path, always putting off sorting out your problems, until you get the wake-up call you need.
The great news is that we live in a recovery-saturated time, where watching celebrities in treatment on television and reading addiction memoirs is the norm; as a result, alcoholism and addiction don’t carry the stigma they once did. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or comfortable to admit you’re in recovery. Stereotypes about addictions abound, as do misinformed family members, judgmental colleagues, and angry friends. The first defense against misunderstanding is discretion. Then, with a big dose of courage, a few well-chosen euphemisms, and a good sense of humor, the process can feel like a liberation instead of an albatross.
While many alcoholics naturally believe they’ll be able to cope with these side-effects by themselves, the medical facts suggest something rather different. Those who have a supportive and caring environment are typically far more successful in beating alcohol addiction – and have a far easier time completing the necessary treatment.
While you may have started to conceal your drinking primarily because of “comments” that were being made by family members who you feel don’t understand your situation, these people are in all honesty worried about your health. Coming clean, asking for their forgiveness and then their support can greatly increase the chances of beating your addiction.