To many, the term “alcoholic” carries a very negative connotation – one that implies being a loser or a failure. It’s no mystery, then, why admitting such a thing is feared by so many. But “coming out” doesn’t have to be a burdensome experience. In fact, it can be quite liberating.
Coming out as anything is scary. To admit out loud that you’re less than perfect takes courage. But, ultimately, it’s going to make you a much stronger person, as well as a much freer one, in the process.
Here are 8 tips to keep in mind when coming out of the addiction closet.
Tip 1: Embrace
First and foremost, you must admit to yourself that you have a problem over which you have no control. By admitting you are powerless over alcohol (and that your life has become unmanageable), you can overcome that self-deception that keeps so many addicts sick. So, go ahead: kick that denial to the curb. It is only by accepting your powerlessness that you can move forward.
Tip 2: Be Open and Honest
In my experience, the more truthful and candid you are about the situation, the more compassion you will receive. After all, we are not perfect human beings, and chances are, the person on the receiving end is battling something themselves.
Tip 3: Join a Support Group
Probably the best place to “come out” is to a recovery group who understands what you’re going through. They’re often more compassionate, empathetic, and less judgmental than the average person because they can relate. So, if getting negative feedback after voicing your revelation is what you fear, you won’t find that here. A support group is going to do just what they claim: support you.
Tip 4: Write About it
When I got out of prison, I was surprised by how insecure I was at admitting where I’d been the last four years. While all my friends and family knew the truth, acquaintances and potential employers were totally in the dark. Though part of me wanted to hide in shame about my newly acquired “felon” label, a bigger part wanted the world to know that that label didn’t define me.
So, I wrote an article that revealed everything: my drunken car crash, my prison stint, my struggles living life as a convicted felon. The experience was cathartic, and though I’m sure I had some closeted “haters,” I had so many more outwardly support my courageousness.
Tip 5: Practice Makes Perfect
The first time I admitted I was a convicted felon was disastrous. I stuttered; my palms sweat; I could barely make eye contact with the person I was speaking to. But the more I practiced my spiel alone—in front of the mirror or in the car on the way to work—the better it got and the more confident I became.
Through constant rehearsal, I was better equipped at admitting my drinking problem and prison experience to strangers.
Tip 6: Cushion the Blow
Chances are, your friends and family already know that you have a drinking problem. Maybe it was the countless glasses of eggnog you guzzled at last year’s Christmas party or your drunken behavior at your best friend’s wedding. Either way, your revelation is probably not going to come as much of a surprise.
Knowing this is helpful before coming clean because your loved ones have had a chance to come to terms with the reality of the situation, and are less likely to react negatively when you make your big announcement.
Tip 7: Speak Publicly
I frequently speak to audiences about how alcohol lead me down the path to self-destruction. Though it doesn’t come naturally, public speaking has empowered me like nothing else. It’s also helped me reconcile my past. In fact, I’ve found the more I get up in front of a group and admit my weaknesses, the more whole I’ve become.
Tip 8: You’re Not Alone
There are millions of alcoholics in this country; many have been in the position you’re in right now. Though it may feel like you’re the only person having to deal with this burden, just know, you’re not the first, and certainly not the last.