‘There might be someone one day who just needs to hear your story’: Why Recovering Addicts Say It’s Best to be Open About Recovery
Addiction, much like depression, is a very serious mental health issue — in fact, the conditions often coincide with one another. And as with depression, addiction has a brutal way of making its victims feel helpless, lost, and as though there is no hope for a happier future.
But those who have been fortunate enough to overcome their mental health issues prove that there is always light beyond the darkness of despair — and they want everyone to know that they, too, can have a happy ending! We spoke with addiction warriors all over the country who shared not only how much better their lives are in recovery, but also why they’re speaking out about their experiences.
If you’re struggling with depression, addiction, or any other mental health issue, we hope you’ll find their stories inspiring, and be encouraged to speak out to others about what you’ve learned. You never know just how big of an impact you can make on someone else’s journey by being open about your own.
Overcoming addiction is absolutely something to be proud of, but for many seeking everlasting sobriety, it isn’t a topic they’re eager to discuss with others. While there tends to be a stigma around addiction, you should never feel like you have to hide your recovery. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.
We spoke to graduates of drug rehabilitation programs from across the country who said that being open about their journey has made a tremendous difference in their recovery. Here are a few reasons they said honesty is the best policy.
People are often more understanding than you might expect.
It may be difficult to have the initial conversation with your loved ones about seeking professional help — you may even feel like no one will support you.
For Jeff, however, the support he received about entering treatment was unexpected, and even overwhelming. After a rewarding conversation with his sister, the next step was telling his older brother and lifelong hero:
“I called him and told him, and his response still chokes me up. He said, ‘I care about you and I want you to get better. If you need anything, I’m here for you. I will always be here for you.’”
Sally told us that getting over that fear may be one of the biggest hurdles, but it comes with a beautiful realization: we’re all only human, and we all have our own battles to fight.
“I know some people go through rehab but then they become scared. Sometimes they’re scared to even go back home,” she said. “You learn at some point during recovery that there’s nothing to be ashamed of — we’re just like everyone else.”
After treatment, sharing your journey with others is good for everybody.
In the year following his graduation from the Treehouse, Lincoln has devoted himself to helping others on their paths to clean living. In return, he says the experience has given him an amazing sense of purpose.
“It’s really brought me a newfound love of life,” he said. “I’ve been through it all. I’ve been homeless, I’ve been fired from jobs — I’ve been through a lot of hard times. But it’s only been this experience of beating my demons that made me think, ‘I need to be doing something more.’ I feel so much joy in helping others.”
Because while someone who’s never abused drugs or alcohol can’t understand the recovery process, you can. And sometimes that’s exactly what your peers need.
“Being in the trenches and through the ringer of addiction provides you the opportunity to help others going through similar experiences,” Lincoln explained. “A lot of people out there have trouble relating to others. I knew I could connect with other people who had been through the lifestyle I had.”
Besides, who couldn’t use a little more understanding in their life?
Forgiveness often isn’t as far away as you think.
It’s possible that your drug use led you to make decisions you now deeply regret, and that can make it tough to approach those you’ve wronged once you’ve left treatment. While some may need time before trusting you again, others may be exceptionally empathetic.
“People will forgive you,” Zach emphasized. “They’ll see where you were and where you are now.
“Addicts are the strongest people I’ve ever met,” he went on. “We just got into a bad situation and something took a hold of us, and now we’ve got to figure out how to live a new life, how to find sobriety, and how to reach out if we need help.”
Though it may not always feel like it, you are a warrior — embrace it, share it, and keep fighting.