Earlier today we posted an excerpt form Chasing The High: A Firsthand Account of One Young Person’s Experience With Substance Abuse by Kyle Keegan and Howard B. Moss, M.D. In the excerpt below the authors answer some tough questions about living with substance abuse in your past.
Should I tell everyone about my problems with drugs and alcohol?
This is a personal choice that each individual must make according to his or her own judgment. You certainly don’t have to tell everyone you run into that you are in recovery from substance abuse, and doing so may very well provoke unwanted stigma and even discrimination. On the other hand, it may be a good idea to disclose your status to close friends and family if they don’t already know. The more people you have around to support you in your recovery, the better; their knowledge of your situation will also help prevent well-intentioned but problematic gestures such as invitations to bars, to go out clubbing, and so on. Also, if you are intimate with someone, it’s my opinion that he or she has a right to know about your past.
Will my past troubles with substance abuse prevent me from having a job?
Discrimination against those recovering from substance abuse or addiction is against the law, but enforcement of such laws isn’t always consistent. If you need not disclose your history to a potential employer, then don’t; there’s no point in revealing the information. If, on the other hand, a job application asks whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime, and you have, you may find yourself forced to explain why. If you feel you have been discriminated against, there are advocacy organizations you can contact, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org), or the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (www.bazelon.org).
What about starting a relationship with someone?
That’s entirely up to you. I know that my wife has been incredibly supportive of me in my recovery; it would have been immeasurably harder without her help. A history of substance abuse can complicate relationships, but there’s no reason yours should prevent you from dating and becoming involved with someone. Obviously I can’t make any promises about your own relationship status, except to stress how dangerous it can be to your recovery should you become involved with someone who still uses drugs.