You’ve done it. You’ve quit drinking. You’ve either gone to rehab or joined Alcoholics Anonymous or another 12-step program, or maybe you’re just sober on your own.
So who should you tell?
For the time being, how about... nobody?
In our Oprah-ized world, many of us have a tendency to over-share. The thinking is that if it happened to me, it’s important to everyone.
In fact, our brains have become rewired to live our lives in one or two things that will get the maximum amount of likes, retweets, and other forms of digital pats on the head.
If you want to put your lunch on Instagram, I won’t stop you.
But when it comes to getting clean and sober, maybe keep it to yourself. At least for the time being.
In Alcoholics Anonymous we say, “The world will stop calling you an alcoholic the moment you start calling yourself one.” In other words, as soon as you recognize that you have a drinking problem and do something about it, the world will stop thinking of you as a drunk.
All too often, the last ones to know they have a drinking problem are the alcoholics themselves. In AA, we also say “denial is not the river in Egypt.”
So here you are, finally having cracked your sense of denial, and you are willing to acknowledge to yourself and those closest to you the truth about your situation – that you cannot drink or take drugs in safety.
Is this something to put on Facebook or otherwise tell the world?
Not yet, amigo.
I have been sober, a day at a time, in Alcoholics Anonymous for more than 27 years. And in that time, I have seen a lot of people surprised and dismayed to find out that not everybody is thrilled to have a recovering alcoholic in their midst.
Can you get fired for telling your boss that you are in recovery?
No. An employer can be in serious trouble for firing you for that reason. It would be discrimination, not to mention just plain stupid. But employers can always gin up (pun intended) a reason for letting someone go. So, yes, in reality you can get fired for telling your boss you’re sober.
Why would a boss do that? It makes no sense. Now that you are sober you can finally live up to your employer’s expectations of you (not to mention your own expectations of yourself). But some people are just weirded out by anything to do with recovery.
Maybe they didn’t know that you had a problem. After all, many of us alkies and addicts are extremely good at keeping our addictions to ourselves.
OR MAYBE your boss has a drinking problem himself, and the last thing he wants is a daily reminder of his own trouble.
So you may just want to keep the news of your recovery on the QT at work.
Should you tell your family? That all depends on how supportive you think they will be. Family recovery is a delicate and even treacherous time. It doesn’t take much to send a newcomer scurrying back to the bottle, the bong, or the blow. It sometimes happens, though this can be a little less than supportive, believe it or not.
Maybe they have alcohol and drug problems of their own. Or maybe they are afraid of “what the neighbors will think.” So you want to weigh long and carefully whether you want to share your recovery with family members.
You might say, “What if I’m at work or a family event and people notice I’m not drinking? Don’t I owe them an explanation?”
You don’t owe them anything, aside from being the best person you can be, and that means this new, clean and sober version of yourself.
If you are at any kind of event, whether it is a simcha or a business function, go to the bar, pick up a soda or bottle of water, and carry that around with you for the rest of the evening.
People are far less likely to ask you why you aren’t drinking if there is a drink in your hand. And if they do persist, which can happen, you can say, “I just don’t feel like it tonight.”
By the way, people who persists in that kind of questioning almost certainly have a drinking problem themselves.
There is a reason why the last word in the name “Alcoholics Anonymous” is anonymous. Initially, it was to protect the fellowship from celebrities who went public with their AA recovery and then got drunk.
Today, anonymity protects the newcomer. You don’t need people questioning you, criticizing you, questioning whether you can stay sober, or firing you just because you did the most important thing that a drug addict or alcoholic can do.
You put the plug in the jug. Maybe this is also the time to zip the lip as well. Give yourself the gift of privacy while navigating your early recovery. Take it from an old-timer. You will be glad you did.
The writer is a New York Times bestselling author and singer/songwriter whose new book is Morning Coffee and whose new CD is Sober Songs Vol. 1.
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