Chances are, you’ve put in a lot of effort keeping your addiction hidden. You have a list of excuses for your behavior when you’re high, another one for when you’re in withdrawal. When substance use started to interfere with social and professional obligations, you came up with cover stories—and perhaps those around you went along with even the most fantastical tales, sometimes even making up their own. And maybe the person you’ve lied to most is yourself, the reality of your own addiction being too much to take in.
But once you can no longer deny your substance abuse, either to yourself or those closest to you, it is time for healing to begin. And that healing means exposing the most vulnerable parts of yourself to clinicians and peers who will give you the support you need to begin the recovery journey. This can be an intimidating prospect for anyone. “Everyone can agree that protecting the privacy of people who are being treated for substance abuse is critical,” writes Michelle Andrews for NPR. “If such information becomes public, it may have a devastating effect on their work and family lives. The mere threat that treatment details might be disclosed can be enough to deter some people from seeking help.”
This feeling of paralysis due to privacy concerns is often particularly powerful for those with an unusual interest in keeping their addiction out of public view. High-level executives, celebrities, media personalities, professional athletes, and others whose careers depend on cultivating a particular public image can feel trapped by their own status and unable to move forward toward the treatment they need. What if the media finds out you are in treatment? What if your struggle with addiction is exposed to the world?
The Need for Privacy and Confidentiality in Addiction Treatment
Ideally, getting help to find freedom from addiction would be celebrated for being the act of courage and self-determination it is. But the truth is that severe stigma persists, and public exposure is indeed a risk, both personally and professionally. While publicly speaking out about your struggle with addiction can be a noble act, it is one you should have a right to choose for yourself, rather than one you have been forced into. But this doesn’t mean that you should not seek treatment; in fact, treatment is imperative to prevent your addiction from damaging your career and your personal life more than it already has. That treatment, however, must be structured in a way that prioritizes privacy and confidentiality, allowing you to recover in an environment designed to accommodate your unique situation.
Choosing the Right Treatment Environment
All treatment centers are required by federal law to protect client information under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. If you have special concerns regarding privacy and confidentiality during addiction treatment, there are a number of additional criteria you can use to evaluate the suitability of programs:
- Program Size. On the most basic level, small programs mean fewer points of vulnerability in terms of potential leaks. But small programs also foster an intimate environment in which people connect on a deeply human level, nurturing a sense of respect and camaraderie. These connections with your peers create a milieu in which you care about and protect one another’s wellbeing, which includes the right to privacy.
- Program Population. It is human nature for people to feel more comfortable with others who are like themselves. As such, choosing an addiction treatment program that caters to high-profile clients can put you at ease and lets you feel free to be yourself. At the same time, you can be assured that you are all in the same boat – you and your peers have a mutual wish to not be discovered, increasing the likelihood that you will collectively respect each other’s privacy.
- Program Policies. Programs that regularly treat high-profile clients are familiar with the special privacy and confidentiality concerns of these individuals. As such, they prioritize HIPAA training for staff, ensuring that everyone who interacts with clients are well aware of federal rules governing privacy. Such programs may also have internal policies designed to protect clients, including allowing you to come in under an assumed name which will appear on all internally shared and electronic records. Only the clinicians directly treating you will have access to your actual details.
Beyond Public Image
At Alta Mira, we understand that confidentiality is paramount for all of our clients. As a small, private treatment center that attracts a high-profile client base, we have the experience necessary to ensure a relaxed, private environment for those who seek care in our facility. But in our years of providing care for this population, we have discovered not all privacy concerns are about public image.
Allowing yourself to recover out of the public eye gives you the time and space to truly immerse yourself in your own healing. Recovery, after all, is not simply about putting an end to substance abuse, but about a deep journey to discover who you are without drugs and alcohol and, more importantly, who you have the potential to be. Those discoveries are difficult to make when you feel closely tethered to external expectations and public scrutiny. Being able to disconnect from the outside world to focus on your own regeneration and creating a strong foundation for continued personal growth provides a sense of freedom and the ability to plant the seeds for a richer future. A treatment program that recognizes not just the desire for privacy, but the benefits of privacy allows you to truly explore the paths to recovery, mind, body and spirit.
Alta Mira provides comprehensive treatment for people struggling with addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about how our renowned program can help you or your loved one start the journey toward sustainable recovery.
Image Source: Unsplash user John Sting