This is a difficult question to answer and one that is personal to your circumstances. The simple answer is that the more people that know about your issue with alcohol and or drugs, the easier it should be in that they should stop offering you alcoholic drinks and so stop you keep having to refuse them. However, if there are some people or organisations who have not had any idea about your addiction, and it could affect your future prospects and opportunities, you may want to think twice before being completely honest with them.
Another point to bear in mind is that you should not place too high an expectation on people’s reaction to your recovery. Some people will not appreciate how much of an achievement it is for you – who found it difficult to even get through half a day or a day without a drink – to now be getting through each day without one. To them it may be a bit of a so what? scenario – as they could not understand why you could not just cut down or stop, so they do not appreciate the magnitude of your achievement. Others may not understand how critical it is for you to not have even one drink (or drug). ‘Surely just one will not hurt?’ they might say. These people need to be informed about your problems with alcohol or drugs and in time they may come to understand how much you have achieved and how continuing to drink or use could kill you. Not having a drink or drug will not harm you or them – but having one will. If they are your true friends, even if they do not understand they will support you. If they do not and continue to try to persuade you to drink or use, then perhaps they need to look at their own reasons and drinking habits. And are they really your friends?
Something that still irritates me to this day is when the people close to me consider me ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’. I don’t know why this annoys me so much (I need to do some work on myself!). I tell my family I am not an ex-alcoholic, I am recovering on a daily basis. Years ago, when my aim was to control my drinking, I would have loved them to think me cured and to sanction my drinking again. Now I need them to understand that it is recovery on a daily basis and that any recovering alcoholic or addict lives constantly wary of relapse (if they don’t they are leaving themselves wide open!).
Should you tell your employers if they do not know? I cannot give you a cut and dried answer to that. I told mine and regretted it as I felt from then on I was viewed slightly differently, as someone who could be unreliable (in the future) and I think it did damage my career – though I later proved them right by relapsing and doing a pretty good job of damaging my prospects myself. I think it is a good idea to tell them that you do not drink any more as it does not agree with you (if you come across alcohol in your work). I would never encourage dishonesty but would give a broad rather than precise definition of the truth if in doubt.
So in summary, tell your family and friends but look after your recovery and don’t put great store by their reactions; do not be dishonest with others but a version of the truth will suffice if appropriate.
If you or a loved one have a drink or drug related problem, please call 0330 333 8184 for confidential help and advice