So, something really awesome and terrifying happened. Good Housekeeping re-rolled out my story on their Facebook page. I commented, and then ta-da! It went in to the news feeds of all of my friends. And then my husbands’ friends. I’m not totally sure about how all that works but there it went and there it be.
I was kind of “out” before. Now, I am totally “out”. Card carrying sober woman: ME.
I am not in the very beginning where this might have been much harder, and I’m far from an old timer where this might not really even figure. I am at this lovely place where I have some solid sober time with me and I can feel the real magic of it. I can feel how strange it feels for people to know my “secret” and then feel how particularly wonderful it is to not have to keep it.
One reason I haven’t really gone to AA is the anonymity. I know it works, and I don’t want to debate that. For me, I need to be able to show people who I am- what I came from. What alcoholism can look like. For me, I wish with all of my heart that there had been someone in or around my life who drank like me, but was in recovery. So by not being anonymous I could be that person now for others.
When AA started back in 1935 the world was a totally different place. But now, we have the ability to share everything with each other. And I want to share what recovery looks like from here: to change the stigma and shame that often comes when people say “I am an alcoholic” and “I am in recovery”.
Addiction is a disease, not a choice. If it were a choice, a simple matter of yes or no, don’t you think I would have chosen long ago to stop choosing it? Just as cancer cells are driven by nature to divide and conquer so are addicts pushed to satisfy our needy hostage selves with more and more and more until we destroy our lives but still use anyway.
I am just regular me: a woman in her early 40’s who used alcohol for years to dull the ebbs and flows of life. A person who drank to fit in, to escape, and to keep myself comfortably ordinary. I didn’t have any huge life wrecking event push me to stop except the vision of my hellish mediocre life in ten years if I just kept on going. I feel like there are lots more people like me out there who won’t ever get to a meeting, but who will, in secret, look up things like “how do I know I’m an alcoholic” and “how do you quit drinking” and see my story and real life me: proud and unashamed of who I am. That they could see that being in recovery is not something to fear but something that makes life bearable. Liveable. Live-able.
I don’t see any reason to keep that a secret.
I get nervous just thinking about it. Thinking about how people can be so mean, and judgmental. Thinking about how, when you put your life out there you invite everyone in, and everyone has opinions. I think about how I want everyone to like me, and my peacekeeping self wants to roll along with the tide and glad hand everyone without making a stand for something I fervently believe in.
You may not agree with me. You may believe AA is the only way. You may believe that addiction is a choice. You may believe that addicts are all losers, and people in recovery are all boring lame-os. And believe all that- you may.
But I believe in the people who wrote to me and came to me in person to say “I’m proud of you” and “You have done a brave thing.” I believe addiction touches almost everyone’s lives, and there are a many different levels of it, countless different ways to heal and recover. I believe that unless some of us are brave enough to stand out people will continue to hide and never get help.
So here it is: what recovery looks like:
It looks like a regular person at the park. It looks just like this. It looks like one of me, until there are two people like me. And then three, and then more. And then we are a small crowd, and then a big crowd, and then an uproar of regular people who are in recovery and so much more. Our sobriety explains us, but it does not define us. And it definitely cannot hide us.