Reader Mailbag – Is “Snitching” a Necessary Part of Recovery?

Reader Mailbag – Is “Snitching” a Necessary Part of Recovery?

Reader mailbag

Traci writes in and asks:

“Got a question for you, having problems in the facility I work at with sick secrets….you know the old “don’t snitch no matter what philosophy?” I was wondering if you had any thoughts on it. Any suggestions?”

This is actually a really good question that I have seen come up again and again in recovery. There are 2 reasons that I continue to see this issue resurface:

1) I lived in a treatment center for quite a while (20 months), and

2) I now work in a treatment center, and interact directly with newly recovering addicts and alcoholics every day.

- Approved Treatment Center -


So the whole idea of “snitching” and the prevalent philosophy that goes along with is fairly common in my experience.

Here’s how I break it all down:

First, you are right, Traci. There is a definite attitude, or philosophy out there that it is wrong to “snitch” on people. Furthermore, I think this idea is even more prevalent in the recovery community. The reason for this is because any drug addict or alcoholic who has been at it for any length of time has accumulated a lot of experience with breaking the law, breaking rules, and generally getting themselves into trouble. These are otherwise known as consequences, and everyone who finally makes it into recovery has usually suffered a whole bunch of them. It simply goes along with the turf. If you drink to excess, or do illegal drugs, then chances are good that you have found it necessary to avoid being “caught.” Due to the various social implications and the implied etiquette among drug users and drunks, it is no surprise that we have a tendency in early recovery to frown upon “snitching.”

Furthermore, many of us in recovery from addiction are prone to codependent behaviors. Specifically, many of us are prone to enabling behavior, and we might sympathize with someone who is craving that next hit, even though sympathy is not the healthy response.

Take the classic example in a treatment center: someone has snuck drugs in, and tells another client about it. The client is torn between whether they should come forward and alert the staff, or if they should just keep quiet and avoid snitching. From every conceivable angle, it is better that the client comes forward. Not only does it help the person who snuck the drugs in, it also helps protect the other clients, who might be vulnerable to such an offering.

Notice too that this is only “snitching” from the perspective of the person who is breaking the rules. For everybody else involved, this is not a case of “tattling”….this is a matter of life and death!

It is ridiculous to uphold this “schoolyard etiquette” of not snitching in the face of such serious consequences.

Truly healthy recovering addicts would want others to snitch

Look at it this way:

Now that I’m living a full life in recovery, I would actually want for my peers to “snitch” on me, if they saw me engaging in questionable behavior.

In recovery, “we are each others eyes and ears.” Sometimes we can get wrapped up into something questionable without realizing how dangerous it is to our sobriety. This is part of the benefit of the feedback loops we create when we network with others in recovery. If you are healthy and want to keep growing, then you will want others to help keep you on the straight and narrow.

People who get upset that somebody “snitched” are likely to have something to hide themselves. If you are truly trying to work an effective recovery, then you won’t mind others who might “call you out” on questionable behaviors–instead you will welcome the feedback and thank them for their insight.


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