Likability can seem mysterious. Some people inherently have personal “social capital,” which means plenty of social assets to share. Others seem as desperate as Milton asking for his stapler.
The specifics of likability and popularity look unquantifiable because opposites can be true. Someone who dresses differently might seem strange or quirky. An athlete can come across as a pushy jock or as motivational. Sharing an addiction story can seem like oversharing or life-affirming and inspirational.
So when is sharing your addiction recovery appropriate, and when will it just make you unlikeable?
Why Your Story May Make You Unlikeable
It turns out, likability isn’t as mysterious as it seems. It has mostly to do with being comfortable in your own skin, having integrity, and being a good listener.
If you share your addiction story for any of the following reasons, it will likely make you unlikeable:
- To get attention.
- To impress anyone with what you have overcome.
- To match or “best” someone else’s story when it is shared.
- To gain sympathy.
- To excuse tardiness, incomplete work, distractibility, or anything else that has a negative impact on your job performance.
- To appear more interesting or as an attempt to be likable or approachable.
- To proselytize or directly sell others on the “life lessons” you learned in addiction or recovery.
- Any other reason that seems contrived or desperate.
Taking an honest look at the reasons you desire to share your addiction story can go a long way toward making that decision more authentic and purposeful.
Whether or not it is appropriate to share your addiction recovery story also depends a great deal on the culture of your working environment. For example, for a middle school teacher hoping to be “more relatable” to young people, it may inadvertently be inappropriate to share such personal information. However, if you are working in a community outreach center and you are clearly doing well and happy, it may inspire others to share your addiction recovery history.
Judgment is key.
How to Share Your Story and Make an Impact
None of this is to discourage you from sharing your addiction recovery story, when it is appropriate and when it will make an impact.
The truth is, millions of Americans are currently or have been addicted to drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviors. Despite such large numbers, addiction can still have an aura of stigma—as though addiction is a moral or judicial issue and not a disease.
Hearing an addict’s story can inspire someone secretly struggling with addiction to get help and recover. Other times where it may be appropriate to share your addiction story include:
- When you are in a group therapy session and sharing your story may help others.
- When you are in a committed relationship and your partner deserves to understand your personal history.
- When you are working or volunteering in a rehabilitation or community connection program.
- When you sense that you are speaking with someone who may also have a history of or being presently struggling with addiction.
- When a friend or loved one asks you to share their story with another.
- When a peer or co-worker could use your empathy or understanding for a current situation.
- When working with an adolescent or young adult at risk of using themselves.
In these or other situations that may arise where it could be appropriate to share your addiction recovery story, another pro tip is to be sure to listen more than you speak. If you sense that the topic makes others uncomfortable, drop it.
Your story is a precious gift, give it where it will make a positive impact.