How To Tell People You’re Getting Treatment To Change Your Drinking

By Holli F., Licensed Mental Health Counselor at Monument

If you’re considering getting treatment to change your drinking, or have already started, congratulations. You should feel proud of that choice! From my 14+ years of experience as a licensed therapist helping people change their relationship with alcohol, I learn one lesson time and time again: everyone is different. Including why we drink, and why we want to stop.

So when it comes to deciding to enter into treatment, the journey is very personal and individualized. Whether you are using therapy, support groups or medication to stop drinking, you’re taking an important step. We’re often not sure who to share this information with, what we should or shouldn’t share, or how to talk about it. We might be fearful of how people will react, or afraid of what they won’t say. So, sometimes we keep that information to ourselves. However, a supportive and understanding network can make a significant difference on this journey, and when you feel comfortable, and if you’re able to, I’d encourage you to confide in your people.

Here are 5 tips that can help you start that conversation with your network:

  1. Not Everyone Needs To Know (Right Now): Fear and nerves about how people will react to hearing that you are getting treatment is incredibly common. Remind yourself that not everyone needs or deserves to know that you are getting treatment, and definitely not all at the same time. Think about your network — friends, family, coworkers — and begin the discussion with people you believe will be supportive. There will be time to tell others. You don’t need to inform everyone right away or at the same time.
  2. Plan It Out: Practice always helps. Think through the key points you want to share, the language you want to use, and other details of the conversation. If you’re working with a therapist, they can help you create your plan, and even role play the conversation. (If you’re interested in working with a therapist to change your relationship with alcohol, Monument has experienced, licensed therapists who can help you achieve your goals. Learn more here.)
  3. Set The Tone: The environment can make a significant difference in setting the tone of the conversation. Make sure that you’re having the discussion at a good time for both you and the other person. Whether you are having the discussion over the phone or in person, you should find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted, and will have enough time to talk. If you’re not comfortable having the discussion face-to-face, you can also write a letter or email.
  4. Expect Questions: Spoiler alert, people will have questions, and it’s important that you are honest in your responses. It’s likely that the people closest to you will not be surprised by your decision and will ask how they can support you. Then it’s your turn to let them know!
  5. Use Your Words: There is no script or glossary for how to talk about your relationship with alcohol. To describe why you’re getting treatment to change your drinking, use words you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to label yourself with words you don’t identify with. For example, our Co-Founder and CEO Mike never identified as an alcoholic, but still sought out treatment to change his drinking. Use words you identify with. There’s no right or wrong vocabulary.

Telling people you’re getting treatment can be overwhelming, nerve-wracking, and even frightening. Change is often uncomfortable, and this will likely be no different. But know that you are making a decision that can give you more out of your life, and give those around you more of you. You should be incredibly proud of that.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments, or find me posting in the Monument Community.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Holli is a licensed mental health counselor/licensed professional counselor in the state of NY and NJ with over 14 years of experience working in the field. She is passionate about helping others achieve their goals, and creating a safe place for that to be done. Her therapeutic approach is unique to you and your needs, often utilizing a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and acceptance.
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