Michael Maassel has been cheering up and inspiring the recovery community every Monday morning since the horrendous early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s an important mission during a pandemic that has been such an emotional drain for so many people in recovery from addiction.
In May 2020, she launched the popular “Monday State of Mind” podcast. Inspired by her own sobriety and wellness journey, the director of alumni and recovery support services at Harmony wants to spread the wealth of knowledge of how you can take the fundamentals of recovery and apply them in your life whether you are in recovery or not.
In episode 84 of “Monday State of Mind,” Michael talked with her colleague Chris Conn, donor relations manager at Harmony Foundation, about how to keep your recovery real and simple. Many people are unsure how to present their recovery in the wider community. How to refuse an alcoholic beverage at a family gathering, public event, or party? How to handle the often awkward moment when somebody offers you a drink?
No need to overcomplicate the issue, says Chris Conn. “Our culture has become much more accepting,” he says. Recovery from addiction “no longer freaks people out.” Many people will now appreciate your sobriety and simply say “cool” when you tell them about it. Often, they are impressed with you making a change like that.
Chris himself was brave enough to break the news in a job interview. When asked why he had moved from Minnesota to Colorado his reply was “I moved out here to get sober.” He was really nervous about his forthright answer but the interviewer wanted to know more and Chris believes his honesty actually helped him get the job. “At that moment I was authentic,” Chris recalls and they liked that “I put that much work and effort into changing my life.”
Sobriety is no longer just for people with addiction, either. “There are lots of people who are choosing to lead an alcohol and drug-free life for many reasons,” says Michael. “It’s becoming very acceptable socially” and that works in your favor if you are in recovery.
It’s also okay to use a little humor to deal with awkward situations. Chris remembers answering questions like “Why are you not drinking?” with “every time I drink, I break out in handcuffs.” And if there was laughter, he would follow up with “seriously, I end up in jail if I do this.”
It’s not always easy. Michael recalls how in early recovery she was sometimes afraid of losing friends if she didn’t drink—if people found out her truth. Chris went through the same phase but then realized if “somebody wants to dissociate from me because I stopped using drugs and alcohol, they were not a healthy person for me to be in my life from the get-go. People that love me the most accept me for who I am.”
Not only did Chris disclose that he had been addicted to substances, but he also came out as a gay male. In the end, only two people dropped him from their lives because of that. “I realized, I’m better off with that. The same goes if you’re disclosing that you’re an alcoholic or an addict,” he says. “If somebody drops you out of their life because you’re taking charge of your sobriety, I feel, that person shouldn’t have been in your life to begin with.”
On the other hand, there’s no obligation to “recover out loud” like Michael and tell everybody about your sobriety. Everybody is different. You can simply just say “I’m not drinking right now.” It’s perfectly alright to keep it brief and to the point.
Remember, recovery is one day at a time. It’s perfectly legitimate to tell people it’s for health reasons such as trying to get fit. Keep it simple and stay sober!