Sharing in Addiction Recovery: The Power of Your Story
Sharing your story in addiction recovery not only helps you but helps others who are in recovery too.
Our personal stories have proven to be a tool that is far more powerful in helping those struggling with addiction than we could ever possibly imagine. Because of this, sharing with others is the basis of all 12 step recovery programmes, as well as many rehabilitation programmes.
But, exactly how does sharing your story of addiction help others? And, how do you go about sharing your story in a constructive way?
This is the purpose of this article. Here, we look at how sharing in addiction recovery helps others to be healed and to be healed ourselves.
Why we share our story of addiction recovery in a ‘general way’
The literature of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we share our personal stories of addiction recovery in a ‘general way’ and that we include, ‘what it was like, what happened and what it is like now’
You may be wondering why it is suggested that we share our stories in a ‘general way’ and what this means.
Firstly, addiction has caused many of us to suffer some very traumatic experiences. Whilst overcoming these traumatic experiences can be used as a way of healing ourselves and inspiring others, it is important to remain mindful when talking about them in front of those that are new to recovery.
The last thing anyone wants (or needs) is to re-live their trauma over and over. It is simply not helpful to the healing process. Likewise, hearing another persons trauma in intricate detail can be a traumatic event in itself; it can also be very triggering.
Therefore, sharing our personal stories of addiction in explicit detail, should only be done in the presence of a qualified counsellor or therapist.
Additionally, sharing our stories of personal recovery in a general way enables us to focus on the events that count. It also keeps us safe from ‘oversharing’ personal information.
When we share our stories, we have a limited time frame in which we can engage others attention. It is simply not possible (nor appropriate) to recount every single detail of our lives.
The purpose of sharing our personal stories in a general way is to help inspire others that recovery is possible. We can hardly do that if they lose interest, or (god forbid) fall asleep.
How sharing your story of recovery helps you and others
Sharing in any form can be very healing and satisfying to the soul.
When it comes to sharing our personal stories, seeing our story spark hope in another person's eyes, inspires a feeling deep inside that is arguably unrivalled.
In recovery from addiction, we have the ability to turn the darkness of our past into light for another’s future. How magical is that!
Overcoming any addiction is no easy feat. You may well have shed blood, sweat and tears in order to arrive at this point. Sharing your story also gives you a true perspective on how far you have come, and what you have overcome, and feel gratitude for the life you have now.
Sharing your personal story of recovery from addiction carries a very powerful and positive message.
By trashing the stigma attached to addiction through voicing your truth, you are re-enforcing your own identity. You are so much more than just an addiction. You are an amazingly strong and resilient individual. Your personal story will confirm this in abundance.
Coming into recovery, we all needed hope and a reason to recover. Staying alive just didn't cut it. There had to be more to life than just, well, living.
Thankfully, there is so much more to life after addiction.
Beyond addiction, there is a life that is waiting to be created. A life that is as beautiful and bountiful. Listening to others' personal stories of recovery inspires us to go further, to try harder and to become better. If other people's stories can have this power, then so can yours.
How and when you should tell your recovery story
Sharing your story in addiction recovery is a very personal choice. Sharing it publicly is not for everyone.
Whilst maintaining anonymity is very important for most of us in addiction recovery, remaining completely anonymous does nothing to break the stigma. Happily, there are ways around this, without compromising anonymity.
When sharing publicly about our struggles with addiction, we can choose to be anonymous or not. Putting our name to our story speaks volumes. It states that we are not ashamed. Nor should we be.
Suffering from any mental health condition is not a choice. Whether it is addiction, depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress, it is not something we actively go out of our way and choose. Mental health happens to us, but, how we deal with it and speak about it, well that is where the ball lands firmly in our court.
When to share your story in addiction recovery
Before you share your story, ensure that you feel strong and well enough in yourself. Speaking about your past can bring up some powerful emotions, leaving you feeling vulnerable and exposed.
Therefore, we suggest that you discuss this with your counsellor, healthcare provider or sponsor before taking the step of speaking openly about yourself in front of others. If you don't feel comfortable or confident enough, you may not be ready.
Sharing your personal story of how you found recovery from addiction should be a very positive experience, not just for others, but for you also. If you don't feel ready, thats ok!
The time will come as you grow further into your recovery.
If it is just a case of having an ‘off day’, conversely, sharing your story may help you to feel better. However, this only applies if you are generally in a well and recovered state of mind.
Sharing your personal story of recovery
Once you feel comfortable and well enough in your recovery to take the next step, we have some tips on how you can share your story and get the most out of the opportunity.
Assuming you are not sharing your story with a qualified counsellor, but with others who suffer from addiction, the following tips will help you to keep your story constructive and helpful.
The following tips on sharing your story are backed by the New England MIRECC Peer Education Centre:
- Start your story by recalling early indications of an addiction manifesting
- Describe or give examples of yourself and your situation at your lowest point
- Speak about what and who helped you to get from your lowest point into recovery
- Talk about who and what helped you during the recovery process
- Describe the challenges you have faced and overcome to get to where you are today
- Speak about your strengths and what you have learned about yourself during your recovery
- Talk about the coping strategies you have developed and who helps to support you in recovery
- Talk about relapse prevention techniques that you have found helpful
- Detail the things you do to maintain your wellness in addiction recovery and what you have gained emotionally, educationally, spiritually and mentally
- Talk about the things you love about being in recovery, relationships that have benefited and the things that you appreciate
When sharing your story of addiction recovery with peers it is important to focus on the recovery aspect. You are in recovery, you have made it out alive, not everyone does!
The fact you are in recovery from addiction should be celebrated during your sharing. By doing this you are positively re-enforcing the reasons why you are in recovery, and providing inspiration for others.
If you would like to have a voice on our platform, you can join our recovery community for free, connect with like-minded others and share your story to be uploaded to our website
- Addressing the stigma that surrounds addiction. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/04/addressing-stigma-surrounds-addiction
- Understanding the impact of trauma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/
- Making Effective Use of Your Recovery Story in Peer Support Relationships -https://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn1/docs/products/Making_Effective_Use_of_Your_Recovery_Story_Presentation.pdf