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Who Should You Tell?

Disclosure – Who needs to know?

Before launching in to your plan to stop drinking it’s worth spending a bit of time considering the subject of disclosure – that is, which people you intend to tell about your plans, and how much you intend to tell them.

Disclosure to others

This is important because such a major change in your life cannot happen in a vacuum, and there will be those around you who will notice a change in your behaviour and may well ask questions. It pays to anticipate these questions up front and to decide on a strategy to handle them. For instance, if you are known as the “life and soul” of the party by your colleagues, and have a reputation for your antics whilst under the influence, you may get some very strange looks when you order a soda water, or flatly refuse to attend any work-based social events.

Equally, if family and friends are used to your home being an “open bar” at any time of the night and day, they will wonder what they have done to upset you when they are offered just tea and coffee.

You may think that it’s your business and nobody else’s, and why should you have to say anything to anyone else at all. In fact the reason is a selfish one – you want them off your back as much as possible during the tricky detox and transition phase. If they don’t know your true motives they are less likely to understand, and the last thing you want is them challenging your fragile constitution in the early stages.

This can be difficult for many people, not only from the point of view of losing face, but because they feel it is a one way ticket. Once they have admitted that they have an alcohol problem there is no going back – every time they drink in future their friends and colleagues will see this as an issue. “She’s fallen off the wagon again…”. “He’s back on the bottle…”. Or they will be waiting for the next failure – “How long is it going to last this time?”

Often though, this resistance or discomfort about disclosure is a sign that the drinker himself has not fully accepted the extent to which his drinking has become an issue. They may still be thinking, “If I just cut back for a while, or stop for a bit then things will be ok.”

If this describes how you are feeling about your drinking and about your ability to disclose the extent of your problems to others, then perhaps you should revisit the section on the Stages of Change, and honestly assess whether you are ready for action right now, or whether you are still in the contemplation phase.

Levels of Disclosure

However, you do not have to throw your hands in the air and declare yourself a hopeless alcoholic to all around you. For instance, although you may admit to your doctor that you are having problems with alcohol and might announce that you are an alcoholic during an AA meeting, this is probably not the best thing to do during a team meeting at work. It may be a better strategy simply to state that you have some health concerns at the moment and have decided to give up alcohol for a while.

In other words, you may decide therefore to adopt different levels of disclosure to different people, or different groups of people, and it can be good to get these different approaches clear in your mind ahead of actually speaking to them.

As a starting point, make a list of all the people who you have regular contact with, and who you pretty much cannot avoid as part of your day to day private and work life.

tell the boss about your drinking

Use different levels of disclosure for different people, as appropriate.

Next, decide for each person, or group of people how much you want to confide in them as to the extent of your problems, or your plans. Decide on the reasons why you feel it is important to share this information with them, and whether the potential consequences are positive or negative regarding your strategy to stop drinking.

Think about the level of detail you wish to disclose, and consider the appropriateness for each group too. For instance, your boss may need to be aware of the reasons behind your poor attendance record recently, but wouldn’t necessarily want to know what you did to Aunt Ethel’s cat during your last drunken escapade.

Whatever you decide to disclose it is generally best not to go into too much detail. Be brief, but at the same time be clear and open. Don’t try to minimise the issues you are facing, but equally don’t beat yourself up over them either. Show that you are taking control of your issues and be confident and upbeat about your plans.

Finally, consider when it is appropriate to speak to each person or group. You may wish to start with the key people such as your doctor and your loved ones first, as gaining their support will help you to go on to speak to those such as your boss or support workers, etc.

Once you have gained confidence in the course of action you are taking and feel comfortable talking about it, then maybe you can speak to your wider network of colleagues and friends.

Remember – disclosure is intended to help you as you implement your strategy to stop drinking. You are in charge of the disclosure process and it’s up to you who you decide to tell and how much you decide to tell them. This is not intended to be an exercise in self-flagellation or ritual humiliation!

Action point: What do you need to do? Write it down!

 

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