Someone I knew from high school recently posted a comment on one of my shares that thanked me for being so open about my story. It got me to thinking: why do I share so openly about my recovery from addiction and other issues? Topics that only a couple decades ago were only hushed secrets in dark church basements or behind the closed doors of doctors’ offices?
I’ve written about stigma and addiction before, but telling my personal story is more vulnerable and intimate. It’s bringing people into my life in an authentic and transparent way—something I am not naturally inclined to do. Truth be told, it still makes me a little uncomfortable to be so open and share with you all; but there are a number of reasons I feel called to do just that. First, I often think about how a story of someone else’s journey to recovery would have likely changed me or in the least, shed some much needed light on the darkness of what I was experiencing back when I was in the thick wilderness of my addiction in high school, and struggling with feeling very alone in my recovery in my early twenties. I had no idea there were supports for people like me: recovery high schools, alternative peer groups, organizations like Rise Together, collegiate recovery programs and recovery housing, the list goes on and on. No one ever told me about what was available for me to aid in my wellness journey and I did not have the agency or boldness to go searching for it myself. Being publicly open about recovery certainly isn’t for everyone but everyone's own story should be respected, whether they feel called to openly discuss it or prefer to share only with close, trusted friends. Whether its a public or private thing, it’s important to note that there can be many pitfalls or dangers to being so open. One of the most notable is the danger that you will be seen as some sort of “spokesperson” for the topic, an expert or the only person who should be consulted on the issue. This is absolutely false as there are a myriad of voices, innumerable in fact, that should be listened to when it comes to the recovery experience. Everyone's story is relevant and beautiful. Next and maybe most importantly, there is danger in recovery (or in any situation) when I start to think I am pretty darn special or unique or awesome for being sober. Like I should get an award or something. I’ll be honest, the times in my life when things have been going the best (new job, great relationships, dreams come true kinda stuff), this is when I’ve had to reach out the most and stay close to my recovery program. It is when I start to think I’ve got it all together, the reality is, that's when it’s the closest to falling apart. The old proverb is one for a reason; the idea that pride can come before a fall is most definitely true.
When I had 3 years in recovery and thought that this was an incredibly long time, the thought started creeping into my mind that if I hadn’t had a drink in so long, maybe I wasn’t really someone who struggles with addiction. Now if you know all of my story, this is utterly ridiculous. Of course, I have issues. Not surprisingly, after these thoughts started creeping in, I had a recurrence of use. Recently, I celebrated 10 years. It might not seem like it if we are friends on social media, but every year I struggle with broadcasting this news. The last thing I want is for my own pride and ego to start to inflate like a hot air balloon and I fly away with it into the murky sky of hubris. I don’t want to be congratulated or told that I am an inspiration because I want God to get all the credit for the way my life has changed. Trust me, if it were still up to me, there’s no way I could have gotten this little chunk of time strung together. Why do I share this milestone? I share it so that if someone is struggling, they know there is hope. I share it with the people who’ve met me in recovery but also for those who in high school knew me at my absolute worst. They saw me leave my junior year, then come back only to leave again after a near fatal overdose. I share it for my children to be accountable to them—along with all of you. They are counting on me to be my best self, someone who is “right-sized” as they say, someone who knows who is responsible for such a transformation. And that certainly isn’t me.
Ultimately, I tell my story so that hopefully it can shine a light on the truth that recovery is worth it and so are you.