“Nature never sends a great man into the ground without confiding the secret to another soul.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “confide” as follows:
And it defines “trust” as:
‘reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something’
So, what does confiding in someone, trusting someone, have to do with recovery from substance abuse?
Well, according to addiction professionals, the disease of addiction affects us in all dimensions of our lives: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. And one thing people seem to have in common who find themselves in an alcohol or drug treatment program (or an impaired professionals program) is a lack of trust. And I don’t mean a moderate lack of trust.
If you’re anything like me, you came in through the doors of recovery pretty thoroughly beaten down, psychologically upended and feeling either afraid, defiant or both, and brimming with mistrust! That is, lacking trust in:
- Those offering to help you recover, including the staff working in any sort of treatment program;
- Yourself, since you’ve very likely come to the conclusion you cannot stop drinking or using drugs on your own (though you’ve very likely tried countless times!);
- A “higher power,” God, The Universe or laws of nature… because (the thinking goes), if you had such support on your side, you could stop drinking or using drugs on your own;
- Family members, spouses or significant others, friends, bosses and co-workers—because (you believe, and you may be right), “they just don’t understand” your needs or the nature of this affliction;
- And the list could go on…
The main point here is this: Recovery from active addiction requires our making some of the most substantial changes we will ever need to make. And the list mentioned directly above is an indication of why learning to trust is one of the greatest challenges there is to healing and finding freedom from addiction. We typically don’t trust anyone or anything!
But if we do not begin to open up or confide, with someone, if we don’t share what we’re experiencing, if we remain guarded and mistrustful, we will only continue the pattern of keeping our emotions and thoughts (good, bad or indifferent) bottled up tightly, which contributes directly to our continuing the obsessive, compulsive thinking and behavior that’s enslaved us for years.!
There is “good news,” however: Relying upon ‘the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something’ is a process we can practice doing and, at an addiction treatment facility (including in an outpatient program), we can learn to feel more secure about doing so. The people who staff addiction treatment centers around the country are trained professionals who have come to know the vital importance of confidentiality and the ability to be trustworthy. This is particularly true of therapists and counselors involved in treatment programs, due to their years of additional training and education.
Therefore, in any professional treatment setting, when you begin to be encouraged to start sharing, opening up and trusting, there actually is good reason to believe the other person is worthy of your confiding in them. And of course, you can start small, whether it be sharing your experience aloud in a small group setting (including a Zoom meeting, given the current pandemic protocols in place) or one-on-one with a treatment center therapist or counselor.
By practicing sharing what we’re experiencing, opening up and confiding in someone, by drawing upon our courage to begin trusting, in time we get better and better at it… as well as reap the rewards of it. Recovery from the disease of addiction is not easy, people. But by letting down the steel walls of mistrust and opening ourselves to the possibility that even one other person—let alone many others—can hold in confidence what you share with them, the process of recovery can go forward with unimaginably greater speed and ease. One day at a time!