Taking the leap to commit to rehab and addiction treatment is a brave, wonderful step. By moving into recovery, you’re putting in effort to fix the rest of your life and to return to God. Living in recovery allows you to live in God’s Grace, to truly appreciate Him, and to reenter the Kingdom of Heaven. But, while recovery means that you are working on yourself and fighting to improve, it may mean being honest to your congregation, friends, and family. While your circumstance will undoubtedly be different depending on whether your fellow Christians are already aware of your struggles with substance abuse, opening is difficult.
The truth is that anyone who has not struggled with a substance use disorder will have difficulty understanding it. Many people only know a tiny bit about addiction and much of what they know is based on myth rather than actuality.
At the same time, more than 18 million Americans are addicted to drugs and alcohol. That means one in five people you know will have a drug addict or alcoholic in their close friends or family. Your fellow Christians are also Christians, they’re following the same moral code of conduct that you are. They’re trying their best to love everyone as their brother, to practice forgiveness, and to treat others as they would be treated themselves.
Talking to fellow Christians about substance abuse and recovery should be about opening up, about learning together, and about re-finding family in your community and your friends.
It’s important that you go into any conversation with the vocabulary and awareness of the topic to adequately communicate what you want to say. That may mean sitting down and thinking about what you want to communicate and why. It may mean researching addiction and learning how to best communicate those ideas. It’s always a good idea to share basic factors about your recovery, where you’re coming from, and what you want from the rest of your life. Some key points to prepare might include:
If you know that your friends and family will want to learn more, it might be a good idea to prepare resources so they can look things up on their own. Al-anon is a good place to start. You might also look for books like The Lost Years by Kristina Wandzilak or Boundaries by Henry Cloud.
It’s important to consider who might be affected by your suddenly discussing addiction and recovery. If you have a large family, consider telling the heads of your household or the people others turn to when stressed upfront. Consider talking to your pastor or the leader of your congregation before you tell your church. Doing so not only allows you to get. help and advice from these people, but also allows them to prepare how to soften the blow to the people who look up to them, how to help those people manage what might be a shocking or hurtful thing for them. And, it allows those people to prepare how to guide others into accepting you and helping you to move forward.
If you’re in recovery, you’re investing in yourself, you’re investing in your community, and you’re investing in God. But that doesn’t mean the people around you will see that hard work or give you accolades for it. Some people might see it as something you owe the community, God, and yourself. Others might see it as the bare minimum. It’s important to remember that you are talking to people you may have hurt, may have wronged, and may have been less than great too.
While, in the story of Prodigal Son, the father is overjoyed and throws a banquet for his returning son, his brother was angry and resentful. Why should the child who has wronged and strayed from the Father’s light be celebrated and welcomed back with open arms? Unfortunately, many of your fellow Christians will behave like your brother, they will resent you and they may have good reason.
Remember, you are working hard to improve yourself. Emphasize how you are working on yourself rather than on how far you’ve come. It’s also a good idea to ask for forgiveness, especially when you’ve actually wronged someone. If you’re taking 12 Step, you will come to a point where your AA group will ask you to do so as well. But, acknowledging that you’ve hurt people upfront can be an important aspect of being welcomed back and being allowed to regrow in your Christian community.
It’s important that you be honest with yourself and with others. Whether your Church, your friends, or your family, building new relationships requires honesty and a dialogue that goes both ways. This means being prepared to hear hurtful things. It also means being prepared to share things you may not be proud of. Stick to the truth wherever you can.
While you obviously don’t want to share every personal detail of your life with every stranger you run into, opening up and building a relationship on honesty can be life changing.
The more your fellow Christians know about your substance abuse, the more important this step will be. This is especially true if you’ve promised to quit in the past and failed. Accountability means showing how you will catch yourself from relapsing, how you are actively doing so, and what you have in place to do so. Why should you share this? It’s important that people have a means on which to base a new trust, so that they can grow with you and rebuild their relationships with you.
“I’m holding myself accountable by sharing my progress with you every week”
“I go to group twice a week to share progress and remain accountable”
“I can talk to X person when I experience cravings”
“I’m attending rehabilitation treatment and will move into an outpatient aftercare program when I’m done”
Establish concrete means of holding yourself accountable, be precise about what those are and how often they happen and be honest. If you do slip up, be honest about it. Most people would 100% rather hear from you that you slipped up, binged over the weekend, and are heading back to therapy than they would find it out at random.
Moving into recovery is a huge step. It allows you to set your life on the right Path, to find God, and to live in a way that allows you to experience joy. The first steps, which include rebuilding your relationships and your community, are difficult. Telling people about addiction, even if you’re already in recovery, is never easy. But it will help you to pave the way to a bright future, walking side by side with God.
If you or a loved one needs help, a Christian-based drug rehab center can give you the space and stability to recover from drug addiction while you turn to God, find yourself in Him, and involve yourself in your community and a congregation. Contact us today for advice.