An article from Psychology Today states that telling your story “may be the most powerful medicine on earth.”
How is this so, especially for us shy types who cringe at the idea of sharing anything to a group of others?
Research and anecdotal experience show the power of storytelling in recovery can teach, entertain, comfort, and heal both the storyteller and the audience.
Why Tell Your Story?
Lederman and Menegatos surveyed 178 members of Alcoholic Anonymous and asked them if sharing their stories with other alcoholics helped them stay sober. Their results reveal that storytelling not only helps the recipients, but it impacts the storyteller in five ways:
1. Serves as a Reminder of a Painful Past
At first glance, this may seem like a negative: Why would you want to remind yourself of your painful past? The keyword here is a “reminder.” While there is no need to dwell on the painful parts of your past addiction, it is important to be reminded of them from time to time to reinforce your recovery.
Many in recovery remember their past life to fortify that they don’t want to return there. Your goal is to get to the point where you can share the parts of your past addictions with others while not letting these memories define you or get you down.
Remembering how you got to where you are today is a necessary step in recovery, and sharing these parts of your story with others strengthens your own sobriety.
2. Reinforces One’s Recovery
When you share your story, you affirm its importance. No longer is your recovery something you are hoping for. It’s real and alive, and you are living it every day. Finding the strength to tell your story reinforces the impact of your recovery for you and others.
In addition, storytelling also yields encouragement and affirmation from others. When someone lets you know how your story impacted their sobriety, you will see that sharing helps your own recovery too. In the same way, sharing provides you with accountability from others.
3. Loses the Sense of Terminal Uniqueness
As defined by many addiction recovery centres, terminal uniqueness, is the “belief that the situation the individual is facing is unlike anything faced by other people.” This belief, also called personal exceptionalism, is common in recovery circles but serves as dangerous thinking that establishes a “me versus them” mentality and can lead to relapse.
Sharing your story with others allows this harmful thinking pattern to vanish because it shows that while your story is unique, others can certainly relate to it.
There’s a common saying in AA groups, “Listen to the similarities and not the differences,” which is a great tip to help the sense of terminal uniqueness.
4. Develops One’s Relationship with One’s Self
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published an article about how storytelling supports one’s recovery while reinforcing the relationship with one’s self. The authors discuss how communication is a crucial step towards building self-confidence and improving problem-solving ability.
By sharing from your heart, you are developing your sense of self; something often lost during active addiction. Sharing builds self-esteem and self-love, both attributes that are the fruits of sobriety. You will realise you have a voice and purpose, two things you may not have realised before recovery.
5. Helps Others
Think about how others’ stories may have helped you in your own recovery. Surely, you have heard inspiration and support from people that you may have never received if it weren’t for you listening. In the same way, others will hear the hope they need from your story. And recovery is all about just that, hope.
In addition to helping others, telling your story can open up opportunities for connections with others in recovery. If you are authentic, you are likely to be met with authenticity, which is the basis of a strong connection.
Getting Over the Fear: “What Will People Think of Me if I Share?”
The fear of sharing can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be when you realise this simple truth:
It’s not really about you, anyway.
Yikes. That’s harsh. But think about it: if you have a recovery story to tell, you have seen a miracle in your life, and while your story is unique, the miracle of recovery should be shared with others.
Why would you not want to share this miracle if it would help someone else? Is your story really about you, or is it about the hope you have to share?
Yes, storytelling helps the storyteller, but it also helps those listening. Get over the fear of “what will people think of me if I share?” Honestly, they will be glad you had the strength and courage to get over that fear and share your powerful story of hope.
Stories have the opportunity to teach, comfort, and heal, especially in recovery.
All of this can be summed up in these words: You are not alone. And by sharing your stories of hope, you will let others know they are not alone either.
We’re here to help.
Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals.