What To Do If Your Friends Bring Up Your Past Addiction During Recovery?

Well-meaning friends also sometimes can’t help themselves. They may be curious how you got rid of drugs or alcohol, and bringing up the past may be their way of broaching the subject. There is a natural curiosity about what goes on in rehab that’s so alien to most people’s frame of reference. Of course, this is private for you, and what or how much you want to share is purely your decision. Again, it depends on how significant the relationship with this person is and what can be gained by being forthcoming – or not. You might say something like:

  • “I know you’re probably curious about how I was able to kick my habit, and at some point, we may be able to have a discussion about it. But now is not the time, and I hope you’ll respect my wishes and not bring up things that happened in the past.”
  • “Thank you for your concern. I appreciate your friendship and the fact that you support my recovery. I am now living in the present, so I would appreciate it if you refrain from discussing things that happened in the past.”
  • What if the friend is also your boss or someone with whom you work closely every day? Your words may have to take on a different tone, especially with someone who has the power to fire or demote you or pass you over for promotion (however deserved). Consider carefully what to say, but here are some suggestions:
  • To your boss: “I appreciate your support while I was in treatment. That’s been very important to me, and it helped me tremendously. I want you to know that I’m working on my sobriety every day, attending my meetings, and putting into practice what I’ve learned. You have my commitment to continue on this path of sobriety. “
  • To your coworker: “I’ve been in treatment and learned a great deal about how to cope with stresses and triggers. Let’s just say that I have a new life plan now, one that doesn’t include addictions. I appreciate your concern and support. I’m still me, but you don’t have to worry about me any longer. Thanks for being my friend.”

What if it doesn’t work?

What happens if, despite all your carefully thought-out and practiced scenarios, what you say doesn’t have the effect you intend? What if your friends continue to bring up the past? How should you approach the situation?

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You could try modifying what you said previously – maybe saying it a little differently or with more directness. You could walk away. You could tell the person that any discussion of your past is off-limits or that you are no longer friends. If the person is your boss or coworker, you may need to employ a different strategy. Perhaps you will need to change jobs, get a transfer, or get a new supervisor. If it’s your coworker, you might also consider asking for a different assignment, a desk in another part of the office, or a transfer. Definitely discuss these types of situations with your counselor and/or support group members – and your significant other or spouse. Changing jobs affects more than just you. It impacts the entire family. It could, however, be just what you need in certain circumstances.

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