How Keeping Secrets Can Harm Your Recovery

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As one Alcoholics Anonymous adage goes, "You're only as sick as your secrets." What this means is that holding onto the skeletons in your closet will affect you in negative ways. After all, addiction in and of itself is something many sufferers hide, which can certainly take its mental, emotional and physical toll over time.

If you’re in recovery from alcoholism or addiction, the inability to process the things that have occurred in your life due to a desire to bury them can actually turn into a bigger problem.

If you’re in recovery from alcoholism or addiction, the inability to process the things that have occurred in your life can hurt your sobriety.

Here are some of the ways having to guard secrets can harm your recovery.

1. The guilt will eat you up.

Have you ever done something and felt terrible about it? Did you keep it a secret because you were afraid of the consequences? If so, you can probably relate to how people feel in such circumstances. Feelings of guilt certainly pop up and sometimes that guilt can really wreak havoc on your emotional life. By telling the secret or confessing with a genuine heart, you have the opportunity to come clean and reduce your guilt. You may fear a harsh reaction from whoever you are confessing to, but your vulnerability can also open the door for forgiveness and a level of intimacy.

2. It will drive you to drink.

When you hold in secrets, the secret can act like a poison that slowly kills. You may end up feeling like a balloon that keeps expanding, until it finally bursts in some sort of emotional breakdown. You don’t want this to happen, as it can easily drive you to break your sobriety. These could include issues such as addiction to sex, porn, food or gambling, or perhaps even just something you said or did that you're having trouble accepting.

3. It creates a wedge between you and others.

For example, let’s say you are in a relationship and one of your co-workers corners you in the office and kisses you. You don’t kiss him or her back and confront this person in a mature way, stating that you are not interested in him or her in that way. For many people, this scenario would—without a question—be a secret they would hide from their partner. Others may feel that they should share what had happened to their significant other, but are afraid so they just keep mum about it.

While it would be tough to let your partner know that this embarrassing situation has occurred, it would also be freeing to be open about it so you can rest your mind. In some cases, this may even help your partner trust you more.

So should you reveal hurtful secrets?

This is a good question. Should you reveal information that will hurt another person? Many tend to feel that if you are withholding from someone that you are very close to, like a partner or family member, omitting the truth essentially hurts both of you. But this is also a judgment call. If it has the potential to make your relationship stronger in the long run, then it’s safe to say that revealing the secret is beneficial. If it will not, then you may want to refrain, but only if you can handle it emotionally. Again, it’s a judgment call on your part and it may require you getting counseling for the matter. It’s probably better to live your life with high values and morals, so that you are less likely to say or do anything and create situations that would haunt you in the first place.

In recovery and life in general, it’s important to walk with integrity, so if you are holding onto secrets you're feeling guilty about, perhaps it’s time to think about coming clean. It might be awkward and a bit scary, but you’ll also be able to breathe much easier and sleep better at night once it all gets resolved. Your recovery is important, so if making a confession will help you feel better, then feel free to do so.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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