Over 20 million Americans struggle with some form of substance addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol (this does not include the many million more who are also addicted to tobacco) Despite this huge body of people with direct experience of addiction, it remains a huge taboo in our society and, once clean, many people choose to hide their past as an addict from the significant people in their lives.
This level of deception and control can be hugely damaging to relationships, particularly to romantic relationships, and can make it difficult to let go and truly accept happiness. You will never truly know whether the person you are choosing to build a life with loves you for who you are until you have shown them every aspect of who you are, including the parts of your past that you are less than proud of.
Let Go of Your Shame
Everybody has a past and has baggage that they are bringing to a relationship that will shape their perceptions and even their personalities: past relationships, past experiences and past mistakes are all part of the rich tapestry of life. It is only when you can share your tapestry with someone else, and they can accept you for who you are, that you will know you have found your life partner. Accepting people as they are is an important part of building a long term and sustainable relationship with strong foundations.
Letting go of your shame and negative thoughts and feelings that you have around your addictive past is the first step to opening yourself up to someone else. Relinquishing that control will make you more capable of being vulnerable and sharing your past with your significant other. One of the most important aspects of choosing to share your addiction story is that you feel safe to do so: the unknown is always scary, so it is normal to be afraid of how the person you care for will react to this new information. Thus, you should feel that you are in a place where you are safe to make your disclosure.
You may not ever really feel comfortable talking in detail about your addiction and the way it affected your life, and you shouldn’t be pushed into doing so if you’re not ready, but such a huge life event should not be hidden away from your significant other. Choose a private space where you both feel comfortable and where you can be vulnerable without the speculation and involvement of third parties, open up and share. Lose control, and trust that your love connection will be stronger by sharing your past with your loved one.
Understand Your Intention
It is important to note that you do not have to disclose your addictive past to everyone: For example, unless you work in a position where disclosure is a legal requirement (as a health care professional, for example), there is no need to disclose your addiction to your employer or to your work colleagues. Friends you enjoy hobbies with, neighbours and other community members also don’t need to know about your past, just as they don’t feel the need to disclose their years as a disco dancing queen or lounge lizard to you.
The act of disclosure itself isn’t important but rather the reason why you are choosing to share this hidden part of your past with someone else: so that they can be closer to you, understand every aspect of who you are, and so that you can move your relationship to the next stage free from secrets and from control. Hence, understanding your intention when you choose to share your addictive past and make yourself vulnerable is important, and that certainly doesn’t mean that it has to tinge or affect everything that you are now. You can move on without addiction being a part of your life, if you understand why you are choosing to disclose it when you do.
Did You Tell Your Significant Other About Your Past Addiction?
What was their reaction? How long did you wait before feeling safe in doing so? How did you feel after sharing it? How did it impact your relationship? Please share your addiction disclosure story with us.
In the meantime, remember to
Let It Go—and Accept What Is!
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