This week’s Stitch member guest article has been written by Stitch member Mel Higham. Mel is an editor, researcher and writer with a focus on health and well-being.
Mel is also a recovered addict. While training for her career she began to experience stress which caused her to turn to alcohol as a way of coping. When she took a career sabbatical, she entered therapy and began her journey into recovery. She is now 5 years sober and enjoying life much more than she used to. Mel understandably has many insights into how recovery from addiction can affect interpersonal relationships.
Mel shares some interesting recent writing about this area as well as some thoughts on how to deal with what can be a difficult situation for many people. We’re very proud that Mel wanted to share her thoughts and experiences with the rest of the Stitch community. Please let her know what you think in the comments!
There are all kinds of disclosure-dilemmas one has on meeting new people. Nobody is without a past, and most people want to be honest and liked for who they are. Honest background-disclosure is a great way for people to connect and get a feel for who the other is — but there will inevitably be some aspect of everyone’s past which they fear will give others the wrong impression.
This is one of the major issues faced by former addicts. Should they tell someone new about their past issues? Will it make them think worse of them? Will not doing so be tantamount to lying? It’s a tricky situation — but the essential thing is to never feel forced by shame or remorse into disclosing something. Always be in control of your self-disclosure. If you are not in control, then you are (once again) essentially being ruled by the addiction.
Perhaps the most important aspects of recovery self-disclosure are your motivations for doing so, and the spirit in which the person you’re telling receives it. Self-disclosure should never come out of shame. nor should you blurt it out simply to be ‘ruthlessly honest’ when the information may not even be relevant. There is more to you than your addiction issues, and you should not feel like they are the be-all-an-end-all of your relationships with yourself and others. So long as you’re not actively deceiving someone (which is also often motivated by shame) then you do not have to tell anyone about your issues if they are not immediately relevant. If you do decide to tell someone about your past, you need to make sure that you trust and feel safe with that person, before going on to examine your own motives.
Self-disclosure has a lot of admirable honesty to it, but there needs to be more than honesty for it to go smoothly. You need to feel a certain sense of ownership of your past – taking responsibility for past failings without being ruled by shame. You need to be calm and confident in your disclosure, clear about who you are, where you have been, and where you are going. Above all, you need to disclose for your own sake, not for the sake of society or anyone else.
For more on this, read this article.