Responsible communication starts with each conversation, word, and body language signal. There is a phenomenon in early recovery where people may feel compelled to share every last detail of their addictive behavior. They want to share all the secrets that have burdened them for so long. And while this may feel wonderful at first, it can be a source of regret later.
Choose with care the people with whom you share details of your past. When you err, err on the side of sharing too little information. You can always give more information later. But, you can’t take it back. Generally, provide only enough information to support your personal growth and to assist your understanding of your self and others. When discussing your past behavior, talk in terms of how your behavior is changing, rather than focusing only on how bad it was at one point in your life.
Share parts of your total self, not just your past addiction. Concentrate on your future, not your past. Concentrate on your strengths, not your mistakes. When you talk of lapses, talk in terms of what you have done since that lapse in terms of personal growth. Except during treatment or rehab, try to limit your daily conservations about your past addictions. Talk about your successes, your interests, sports or job, whatever is part of your new life. Gradually take your life’s focus off your past experience of addiction and put it on the challenges and joys of daily living.
You are the only person who is responsible for monitoring your conversations and the amount of information you share. Honest communication does not require microscopic details. Contrary to what your partner, friend or family member may believe, it is not always in your best interest, nor is it the best interest of relationships to discuss in detail every behavior of your past addiction lifestyle. Doing so may result in destruction of the relationship or your self-esteem. Your mother does not need to know the details about every time you stole money or had sex for money in the past decade. Honest communication requires taking care of yourself and others. Your partner does not need to know the details of every sexual encounter you ever had in your life. But, your partner does need to know that you are going to use a condom, get tested for sexual transmitted diseases, and share the results with them, because your addiction caused you to exhibit poor judgment.
As in all things, communication about the past requires a balanced approach. Distorted communication is not the goal. Lying or avoidance is not the goal either. It is possible to be honest and share what you feel comfortable sharing while maintaining your pride and dignity. It involves requesting respect for your privacy and the support to pursue your sincerest desire to change your life. Those who truly care about you and your recovery will respect your emotional boundaries when it comes to your past addiction lifestyle.
Sometimes individuals believe that describing in detail the horror of the addiction lifestyle, is evidence of their sincere intention to stay clean. It may feel good momentarily to confess such burdens to others, but confessing to the wrong people or at the wrong time can stimulate further isolation. Continual confession does not allow you to move on. You have the right to put the addiction lifestyle behind you and nobody has the right to stop you. It is up to you to communicate that right to others. Accept that in some situations, the consequences of your past behaviors will be life long. This is no different than serious mistakes made by other people who have different experiences than addiction, such as financial failure due to poor judgment. There is no better way to make amends for past actions than to make a complete recovery and achieve your life goals.