How can someone bring their secret struggle of drug addiction or alcoholism into the light so that they can start to heal?
There are a couple of key points when it comes to dealing with the shame of addiction.
First and perhaps most importantly, the struggling addict or alcoholic really needs to find a way to connect and relate with other addicts and alcoholics. This is vital if they are going to overcome their shame and be able to begin to heal their life.
My problem was that I was stuck in active addiction and I was seeing therapists and counselors who were trying to convince me to go to AA and NA meetings. They were arguing that if I was ever going to break free from my addiction that I was going to need to tap into these social solutions in order to do so.
I was shy and too nervous to walk into an AA meeting and start sharing. That wasn't me. Half the reason that I was drinking alcohol was because it fixed my shyness and brought me out of my shell in the first place. So the idea of being clean and sober and full of anxiety, while walking into an AA meeting to try to make new friends, was just too much for me to handle. I could not bring myself to have that kind of courage, especially when I was sober.
The key for me was when I finally went to inpatient treatment first, and there I was able to start making new acquaintances, meeting peers, and even attending in-house AA and NA meetings. This was easy compared to walking into an AA meeting cold. When you are in treatment it is much easier because everyone in rehab with you is attending all of the groups and lectures anyway, so it was quite natural and normal to be in the meetings. It was not as intimidating because you had met these peers because you were staying in treatment with them and you basically knew them a bit.
So for me, I could not figure out a way to dive into AA or NA until I first went to rehab. That was the only way that I could get introduced to the meetings in a way that allowed me to actually break through my anxiety.
Most people are worried about the stigma of addiction and alcoholism, and they believe that if others knew about their problem that they would look down on us in a negative light, treat us differently, and think less of us.
Here is the first news flash in that regard: For the most part, they already know.
Most people are fairly perceptive when it comes to addiction and alcoholism, and they can often see the signs before we think they can see them. In other words, the people who are close to you probably already have a really good idea about the extent of your problem. And even people who are a bit more distant from you, such as coworkers or classmates, they will often know about your problem too, even if they are not saying anything.
The old stigma is dying. A few decades ago these kinds of worries might be a bit more justified, because people really did look down on addicts and alcoholics more frequently. But today, we have television programs such as Intervention, and the mainstream media has done a lot of things like that in order to help educate the public about addiction. It is much more common today for people to praise recovery efforts rather than to look down on the addict or alcoholic. It is much more common today for society to know about the disease model of addiction, and therefore they will tend to push for treatment rather than punishment. They are much more likely today to know that it is a disease rather than a moral failing.
The first thing that you need to do if you are struggling with your addiction in secret is to find at least one person that you can trust in the world. A secret shared is a burden cut in half, and you need to get some relief if you truly have not talked to another soul about your problem yet. You need to find at least one person who you can confide in.
There are many ways to do this. As I pointed out above, the best way is to simply bite the bullet and call up an inpatient treatment center and go to rehab, that will be the best decision that you have ever made, and will lead you into a life of real happiness. If you do choose to go to rehab then one day you will look back at this moment and wonder why you waited so long to finally do so.
Second of all, if you are not yet ready to dive into inpatient treatment, then you should still get on the phone and call a local treatment center and ask them to refer you to a therapist or a counselor. This is really the path that you would probably take if you are super anxious about everyone finding out about your problem. Why? Because you can easily go see a therapist for an hour a week without anyone discovering what you are doing. Going to inpatient treatment is a bit more of a commitment, and if you are missing for 28 days then that is a lot of time for people to wonder. But if you sneak away for an hour to go see a therapist or a counselor then that is fairly easy to cover up.
Of course, when I was seeing a therapist, they had basically figured out that I needed to get into treatment as soon as possible, and also that I needed to get some social support in my life, such as what is found at AA and NA meetings.
You will find if you go to a 28 day program that people are more supportive than you imagined in your mind. The truth is that addiction is not the hush hush secret that it used to be, and nearly everyone knows someone or has a close friend or family member who has been through the struggle. So going to rehab is not going to expose you in a negative light the way that you think it is going to.
The government estimates that as many as 89 percent of all alcoholics and drug addicts never seek any help for their problem. The world has shifted in that we now admire and commend those who have the courage to be in that 11 percent of people who admit that they have a problem and are willing to try to fix it.
If you are living with the secret shame of addiction then your problem is really that you are projecting all of this negativity on others who might found about you and your problem. The truth is that you are still a good person and you simply have a disease that needs to be treated. If you summon up the courage to go get the disease treated properly then your life will become so much better in such a short amount of time.
Everyone has problems and everyone has issues. The world has changed a lot in the last ten years or so, and the stigma that you fear is not as pronounced as it once was. Again, if you are willing to go to inpatient treatment then that is the best decision that you could ever make for yourself. One day you will look back at this situation and realize that it was only your shame that was holding you back, and as soon as you made the decision to fix your problem, even in spite of what others might think, is the day that your life turned around for the better.
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