I suppose it is inevitable, really, what has been going on this week. I have been getting some strong reactions to posting about recovery. It is a slippery slope, this talking about addiction thing. There are a couple of fundamental principles that are important to adhere to, and some recent events, that I won't go into, have got me thinking.
Facing up to the fact that you may be an alcoholic, or addict, is an intensely personal decision. If you decide you have a problem, then it is up to you to decide if, or how, you want to get help. A person has to believe in their heart that they have a problem in order for recovery to successfully begin. It is an inside job.
Because of the intensely personal nature of deciding you have a problem, and the stigma surrounding addictions of any kind, protecting people's privacy is essential. It is hard enough to face up to the fact that you need help. As you progress down the path of recovery, your privacy becomes even more paramount - you will be facing feelings, emotions, and actions that are frightening, oftentimes shameful, and you are very vulnerable. The fear of this vulnerability, of being exposed at any point, keeps a lot of people stuck in the cycle of addiction.
I have made a personal choice to be public about my own experience in addiction and recovery. It is a balancing act of sorts, talking about this, because the only things I know to be true are the things that I have felt and experienced myself. Everyone has their own journey, their own story, their own belief system. There are several ways to get help, many ways to recover. In my opinion, whatever way works for you, helps you stop and begin to live a fuller life, is a good way.
But it is a hornet's nest. People feel strongly about recovery, and for good reason. It is a sacred process, talking about it, and trying to get well. How people do this, what they say, how they feel, is not for public consumption. Perhaps, by sharing my story, I am overstepping these boundaries a bit, because I can't share my experience without providing some details of how I stay sober. It is this process that people wish to protect. I understand this, and I will strive harder to respect the sanctity of this.
So what to do? Do I stop talking about it? I have been doing serious soul searching about this. Again, I can only relate my own experience, and what I remember about my decision to get help. Once I finally, finally realized I had a problem, the next question was, of course, how? It is rare to know if someone is in recovery, until you are in the recovery community yourself. I didn't have anyone to call that I knew would understand how I felt. But I had read a book, ten years prior, called Drinking, A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp. Even a decade earlier, her struggles, her emotions and her story resonated with me. She reminded me of me in many ways, not just because she drank too much. She didn't match my mind's eye view of what an alcoholic looked like. I identified with her. So when I decided to get help, I turned to her story once again. I read about how she felt, what she did, and what recovery was like for her. I thought to myself: if she got sober, I can try, too. I will always be grateful to her for this gift.
Taking these first tentative steps towards recovery - the admission to yourself, and then to someone else, someone safe - be it a doctor, a spiritual advisor, another addict - is the most critical, and the most difficult. Sometimes people know someone in recovery - a family member or friend, but more often they don't. I decided to put myself out there, to share my story, in the hopes that something I said resonated with someone who is struggling. Not to provide answers, or a blueprint to the recovery process.
I don't think I can stop talking about it, and when I speak about recovery I wish to convey what my experience - and mine alone - is like on the other side of addiction. Just one email from someone who says: I've never admitted this out loud to anyone, but I think I have a problem - that is enough for me. I do not wish to tell them how to do it, where to go, what they should believe. I feel there is a veil of silence, shame and secrecy that keeps people stuck in addiction. I speak my truth in the hopes that it breaks down that veil, just a little, for another person.