Does Our Silence Define Us? The Downside of Anonymity
When I began writing this blog I subscribed to Google Alerts for anything pertaining to substance abuse and recovery to stay up to date on recovery and addiction topics around the country. Let’s be honest, Washtenaw County is its own little recovery bubble. Because of a big treatment facility in Ypsilanti and another treatment organization in Ann Arbor, and the really large recovery community that is here, it’s easy to forget there are people out there that have different views on addiction and recovery. Some folks believe addiction is a matter of choice and others believe that 12 step recovery makes addicts victims.
What else are they supposed to believe? We don’t bother to educate people about recovery. We sit in our anonymous meetings because of the stigma of addiction and our silence allows people to define us. Maybe it’s time we take a page from the history books of LGBT community and get LOUD AND PROUD!
Who Would Choose to Be an Addict?!
I’m mean seriously, who? “I can’t wait to grow up and become an addict, burn my life to the ground, hurt everyone who ever loved me, become a liar, cheat and a thief and waste all my potential,” said NO ONE EVER!
An alcoholic/addict’s body reacts differently to alcohol and drugs, many times right from the very first drink or drug. You can’t see it, only the alcoholic/addict can feel it. For non-addicts that are reading this I will try to explain the mental and physical effect that alcohol has on an alcoholic. I will probably fail miserably at adequately describing it, but I’ll give it a shot.
An Analogy and Description for the Nonalcoholic
Physical– Have you ever been REALLY hungry? I’m talking seriously famished where there is a gnawing in your gut and all you can think about is food. Let’s say you finally get a meal in front of you, you shovel it in, and you lean back feeling completely satisfied. That is the normal reaction when a hungry person finishes eating. What if you gave a hungry person a plate of food and instead of feeling satisfied they felt hungrier? The more they ate the hungrier they got. No amount of food satisfies them. That would be an abnormal reaction to food, right? Now substitute food with alcohol in the analogy above.
Mental– An alcoholic (not in recovery), prior to taking a drink, will sometimes obsess about alcohol. They can’t get the thought out of their mind. They might shake it for a little while but the thought intrusively comes back. Eventually they succumb to the drink. They can’t remember all of the negative consequences drinking has brought into their life. All they can think about is getting relief from the gnawing in their gut and deep yearning for that drink. Once they take the drink the mental obsession is removed but then the physical reaction takes over (read above) and no amount of alcohol will satisfy them. It’s a sick cycle. Substitute drugs for alcohol in this equation and it’s the same.
Do you think anyone would choose this mental and physical torture? And yes, it is torture. An alcoholic has a mind that tells them to drink and a body that insures that they can’t drink normally. When they drink they do horrible things, hurt people they love, break laws, embarrass themselves and others and eventually become a burden to their loved ones and society. What a horrible life to live. My description still doesn’t adequately describe the feelings an alcoholic/addict has because it’s way more intense and much more mind controlling then simple hunger pains or thoughts.
Suicide or AA was a Tough Choice
Would you choose this life? No? Me neither, but that’s the life I inevitably lived. Not by choice but because my body reacts differently to alcohol. It has from day one. I was never a normal drinker.
“I guess I needed every last drop I drank and every drug I did to get me to the point of surrender to ask for help and to seek recovery.”
Back in my early 20’s they used to say, “L can drink any guy under the table!” I was actually proud of that. By my early 30’s, two DUI’s, one assault, multiple wrecked relationships, wrecked cars, a host of lost jobs, evictions, loss of respect, suicidal, with wasted potential and wasted opportunities later, I wished for anything but the burden of having to drink. And yes, I HAD to drink. I guess I needed every last drop I drank and every drug I did to get me to the point of surrender to seek recovery. It was either another suicide attempt or go to *AA. It was a tough choice. Seriously, it was! I chose AA. I’m pretty sure I made the right choice. 😉
Powerless or Victimized?
Here’s the good news. I no longer think of drinking. I no longer need to drink. I am free! While reading those articles I subscribed to through Google Alerts, I found there were some people who disliked the 12 step model of recovery. They said that admitting powerlessness made us victims. I don’t blame them for thinking this way. The word “powerless” has a negative connotation to it. What they don’t understand is that this is only the first step in the process of recovery. We don’t remain that way. Sure, I’ll always be “powerless” over alcohol if I ingest it. I can never take a drink again, but I don’t want to drink so it’s not a big deal.
“We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.” *Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 132 [emphasis added]
What Does a Person in Recovery Look Like?
A person in recovery takes responsibility for their past. They inventory that past and they go out and make amends for wrongs done to others. They continue to inventory their day and try to live a moral life, doing the right things and helping others. Most are active in service work and volunteering. They hold jobs and are good employees. They become better children, spouses, brothers, sisters, and community members all though the 12 step process.
I am a person in recovery! I am a woman, mother, volunteer, church member, daughter, sister, neighbor, friend, voter, college educated, recycler, dog owner, leader, sponsor, employee and many other things. I am just like you except I used to drink and drug heavily in the past. Do not define me by who I was. See me for who I am.
I Choose Not to Be Defined By Anyone Else
She [Sally Satel] also thinks it’s unhelpful to take away the stigma associated with drug abuse. “Why would you want to take the stigma away?” she asks. “I can’t think of anything more worthwhile to stigmatize.” – John Stossel ABC News (quoting Sally Satel “Addiction Expert”)
I have no choice in my alcoholism but I definitely have a choice in my recovery. I choose to live the 12 step spiritual principles. I choose to go to a few 12 step meetings a week. I choose to help others. I choose accountability and responsibility. I choose not to live with the stigma of some societal views. I choose to network with other women in recovery and attend recovery events. I choose to not let anyone else define me. I am a proud woman in recovery and today, I choose to live. Today I have a life. THANK GOD!
Clarification- if you are a member of AA you should probably not publicly post your affiliation with AA all over your Facebook page. There are still the 12 traditions to consider, but you can post that you are “in recovery.” That does not break any AA traditions. Also, your anonymity or lack of anonymity is your own personal decision. I am not telling you what is right or wrong for your personal situation.
What are your thoughts on the stigma of addiction and recovery? Are you open about your recovery? Why or why not?
Peace, Love & Sobriety,
*A2WG is not affiliated with AA