Telling family and friends about a stay in rehab can be a frightening and daunting prospect. You fear their judgment, their criticism, their questions, and possibly their disbelief, and you’re also afraid of the shame and embarrassment you may feel when you come clean about your addiction.

But being honest about your time in rehab is an opportunity to start making amends and begin rebuilding relationships that were damaged by your substance abuse, an occasion to strengthen the bonds between you and your family members, and a chance for you to gain some much-needed support and understanding from the people you rely on.

While you may be worried about talking to your family, it can help if you have a plan, know what you’re going to say, and prepare yourself in advance for a variety of reactions and outcomes.

Planning for and Practicing the Conversation

While it’s difficult to hide substance use from close friends and family, many addicts become excellent at lying and covering their tracks to hide their addiction. This deception and denial can make it even harder to tell the truth once you have been through rehab, but honesty is the only foundation upon which to build a solid family relationship.

Planning what you’re going to say is the first step, and laying out the points you want to discuss can alleviate a great deal of pressure. Tell your family that you were in rehab, or that you are planning to go, that you have a substance use problem, and you want to live a healthy and sober life in the future.

Consider going over the conversation with a close friend who knows the situation. That person may be able to guide you regarding what questions your family will ask, what they’ll want to know, and how you can respond to their concerns.

Schedule a Family Meeting

Once you know what you’re going to say, the next step is to plan the right time to have a family meeting. While you can choose to talk to each family member individually, it might be harder and more stressful for you to have the same conversation multiple times. Furthermore, when you have a family meeting, nobody feels left out because everyone finds out at the same time, and everyone can process the information together and support one another.

It’s a good idea to schedule a meeting because then you don’t catch people off-guard, don’t risk approaching them when they’re busy and stressed out, and it guarantees that you’ll have their full attention.

When you do have the discussion with your family, be frank and honest about things. Use the discussion as an opportunity to ask your family for their support, as their love and care will be integral to your long-term sobriety.

Telling your family about your time in rehab will be difficult and stressful, but the relief you’ll feel when it’s over will be well worth it. Not only that but once you’re all on the same page, you can begin to support each other and heal together. If you are telling them before your treatment starts, they will be able to offer more support if they know what is happening.

It’s important to remember that your family loves you and wants what’s best for you, and any anxiety you feel about telling the truth about rehab will stop as soon as you open up about your addiction, your treatment, and your recovery.