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5 Strategies for Telling People You Are in Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

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Deciding to get sober can be difficult. Many people wonder if there is not some easier, softer way. Few people want to admit that they have a problem that they cannot solve on their own. In our culture, admitting defeat can feel like a humiliation. 

Resolving a drinking or drug problem, however, requires reaching out for help. Even after getting help for an addiction, the idea of telling people outside of your recovery circle that you’re sober can seem overwhelming or stressful. Perhaps you worry about judgment, or that they’ll pressure you to drink, or that you’ll miss out on important opportunities.

Learning how to talk about your recovery to other people is actually an essential part of recovery! It can help repair relationships with other people — and it allows you to live life more authentically. Moreover, with more than 20.2 million adults in the United States suffering from a substance use disorder, it is likely you’ll end up helping someone out or making new sober friends.

1. You Don’t Have to Tell Everyone

Recovery is a time for honesty, but that doesn’t mean that you need to share every detail of your life story with each person you encounter. You have the freedom to decide who you share your story with. In some cases, you may not want to share it at all. If you do not feel comfortable telling your boss that you’re in recovery, you don’t have to.

In other cases, it may feel natural to share only an aspect of your recovery. At a party with new people, you might feel more comfortable simply saying “I don’t drink.” You can even say, “I’m not drinking tonight.” If you’re not feeling in the right frame of mind to say you’re sober or in recovery, or if you sense negative energy from the other person, you don’t have to say anything.

2. Accept That People Will Have Questions

When you open up to someone and explain that you’re in recovery, it’s only natural that they’ll have questions. Some people may not know what recovery is at all! Others will be more inquisitive, and they may ask you questions about your history of substance abuse. If you were someone who drank or used drugs in isolation, close friends may ask, “Did you really have a problem with substances?” They may ask whether your sobriety is going to last forever or how you will ever have fun again.

These questions can be confusing and annoying during early sobriety, especially since you probably don’t have all the answers yet! Recognize that people will have questions, and that they are rarely ill-intended. In many cases, though, you’ll be surprised to find that people aren’t even interested — which might be a relief to you!

3. Remember That Most People Aren’t Thinking About You

It may not sound like the most positive news, but most people aren’t thinking about you or your drinking habits. In fact, if you’re worried about how people will react to your sobriety, you can take that as a sign that other people are probably worried about how they’re going to be perceived. Chances are, you can easily attend a party or event and not drink — and no one will even notice!

In some cases, this can even be a little disappointing. After all, the recovery process is hard work and often feels like an incredible accomplishment. It may feel like a letdown when you tell someone you’re in recovery and they say, “Oh cool.” They’re likely just thinking about their own problems, though! Understanding this can take a lot of pressure off.

4. Don’t Try to Fix Other People

During early recovery, many people find themselves on a “pink cloud.” On a pink cloud, individuals feel that their lives are perfect now that they’ve quit drugs and alcohol. There’s probably some truth to this, but the fact is that eventually many challenges emerge. Fortunately it is possible to meet these challenges by making use of recovery tools.

If you feel that your life is better now that you’re sober, it may be tempting to try to share this feeling with others. You may see friends using drugs or binge drinking and think, “I can save them.” Sometimes it will be really obvious that someone has a drug or alcohol addiction. In these cases, especially when it comes to close friends or family members, it can feel wrong not to try to help.

Ultimately, however, the only person you can directly help is yourself. If an individual has no desire to change, they’re probably not ready to be “saved” by anyone. Trying to do so can actually end up alienating your loved ones. Most people who suffer from addiction are reluctant to ask for help or discuss their issues; in fact, only 11% of people with addiction ever reach out for aid. Obviously if someone reaches out to you and says, “How did you get sober? I need help,” then there is plenty you can do for them. But it rarely pays off telling someone they have a problem and that they need to get sober.

By pursuing your own recovery, however, you can set a good example. In fact, the example you set will likely benefit countless people. You might even not ever directly discuss your recovery with these people, and they may never reach out for help. But you will be living proof that recovery is possible, which can give people hope — and that counts for a lot.

5. Be True To Yourself

During recovery, we reach a better understanding of ourselves and learn to live honestly and truthfully. For most people in active addiction, substance abuse led to toxic personality changes and warped relationships with loved ones. Talking about your recovery with other people, whether you’re talking with close friends or loved ones, provides an opportunity for vulnerability and honesty. In a sense, this is part of the recovery process.

Don’t worry about how other people will react to your sobriety. Your job isn’t to accommodate others, it’s to express what you need to express. If other people react badly to the news that you’re in recovery or try to pressure you to drink, it’s likely that they have a problem. It’s up to them to decide how to deal with that, not you. Be your authentic self.

Recovery is Possible at Design for Recovery

Design for Recovery is a sober living housing in Los Angeles. At Design for Recovery, young men in recovery have the opportunity to live together in a safe, supportive, and trigger-free environment. Every one of our residents is earnestly pursuing long term sobriety and working to rebuild their lives. Our sober community provides a vital support system for young men who want to take positive steps in recovery.

If you are struggling to discuss your recovery with people, you can benefit from having a stronger sober peer support system. In fact, research shows that individuals in sober living homes who develop long term relationships with other people in recovery are more likely to stay sober for years after graduation. These relationships not only help you stay sober, however. They provide opportunities for fun sober activities — and meaningful connection.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re early on in the recovery journey or have recently finished a treatment program, Design for Recovery is here to support you and meet your needs. If you are ready to make a change, contact us today.


Telling your recovery story can be a powerful tool in your journey. Start by outlining the major points in your journey, from the first realization of your addiction to the steps you took towards recovery. Remember, it’s your story, so tell it in a way that feels authentic to you.

When speaking to someone in recovery, it’s important to be supportive and non-judgmental. Express your admiration for their courage and resilience. You can say things like “I’m proud of you,” or “I’m here for you,” to show your support.

Recovery stories from addiction can provide hope and inspiration. They can show that recovery is possible, no matter how severe the addiction. These stories can also provide practical tips and strategies for dealing with challenges in recovery.

Addiction recovery stories can be found in many places. Many recovery organizations and treatment centers publish stories on their websites. Books, magazines, and online forums also often feature personal stories of recovery.

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Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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