While you’re in alcohol and drug rehab, it is relatively easy to speak about your experience. You are among a group of people who have been through similar things as you. Your addiction is why you are there, after all. But what happens once you leave rehab? Should you keep your time in drug rehab secret?
This is a complex matter that has no simple answer. There are compelling reasons to speak openly about your time in drug rehab. However, there are also practical reasons to keep it secret.
Here are some of the factors you need to consider.
Have you owned your addiction?
Denial is both a symptom and enabler of addiction. People struggling with addiction deny that they have a problem even to themselves. That denial prevents addicts from getting treatment. Even as it becomes obvious to everyone else that you have a problem, you may not see it.
But without accepting that you have a problem, you are unlikely to recover. The steps towards recovery take work and commitment, which no one will undertake if they think they have things under control.
This is one of the problems with keeping your time in drug rehab secret. While you may have conceded that you have a problem in going to rehab in the first place, the instinct to lie about it hints at a difficulty in owning your addiction. Of course, stigma may be the main reason for your secretiveness, but denial to others can lead you back into a state of denial to yourself.
When considering whether or not to tell people about your time in rehab, ask yourself whether you have truly owned your addiction. If you believe you have, ask yourself the real reasons you want to keep it secret. Are these reasons practical?
Who do you want to keep your addiction secret from?
The question of who you want to keep your addiction secret from will be revealing. If you are trying to keep it secret from family and friends, this hints at your difficulty in owning your problem.
While in rehab, you should come to accept your problem without self-judgment, and to find pride in your recovery. Outside of rehab, this becomes more difficult, as your friends and family have not been through the same process as you. However, revealing your problem to them will be a declaration to yourself and to them that you have come to terms with what you have been through.
Keeping your time in drug rehab secret from family and friends can lead to bigger problems down the line. A pattern of secrecy is one of the damaging symptoms of alcohol and drug addiction. The temporary feeling of shame in sharing your experience is a small price to pay for maintaining your recovery.
But what about employers, colleagues, and networks?
What about your career?
Unfortunately, sharing that you have spent time in drug rehab may be damaging for your job or job prospects. America’s working world has not yet accepted on a broad scale that addiction is a disease. Many employers may reconsider hiring someone based on their experience in rehab.
When it comes to your career, keeping your time in rehab secret might be the most practical choice. As long as you are doing so to improve your prospects or keep your job, the secret should not become too toxic. However, if it no longer threatens your career, keeping it secret out of shame can lead to that cycle of denial.
In terms of your career, the line between secrecy for practical purposes and denial is somewhat clear. That line becomes blurred in a romantic setting.
What do you tell your date?
Dating is difficult for recovering addicts. You are going to be meeting new people who you want to impress, in a context that is often facilitated by alcohol. Furthermore, any relationship based on secrecy and lies is bound to become toxic.
On the other hand, telling your date from the get-go that you are a recovering addict may be too much for them to process. It starts the relationship off with a level of intimacy most couples work up to over time.
The reality is that, when you start dating, it may be wise to keep details about your addiction to yourself. If a first date is going particularly well, you might feel like it is the right moment to share this part of your life. Otherwise, filling the person in on one of the first few dates is advised. At this point, you have gotten to know each other better, and if you continue to keep your time in rehab secret, it will only become a toxic elephant in the room.
Keeping your time in rehab secret is not ideal, but it can be necessary for practical reasons. Assess each case in context, while trying to be as open and honest as possible.