Photo Credit: Kate Meyer, I Am Not Anonymous
I am most definitely not anonymous when it comes to my recovery. I remember talking to my mom on the phone when I was in rehab and she mentioned that family and friends were starting to ask where I was and wanted to know what I wanted her to tell them. My response: "Tell them I'm in rehab for alcohol abuse."
I was so tired of lying to everyone about everything. It was exhausting. I didn't care what people thought. In fact, I knew the rumors flying around would probably be a lot worse than the reality of my situation, so I was open with it from the start.
Not too long after I got out of rehab, I posted about my recovery on Facebook. I was right at 90 days sober and it was September, which is National Recovery Awareness month. So, I thought it was an appropriate time to make a statement and step into the light and join others in being a voice of recovery.
I certainly never hide my days of active addiction. There was nothing anonymous about any of that. I flaunted it all for the world to see. I was "that girl," which still shocks some of my friends who only know "Recovery Allison." But you see, that's because alcohol was only a symptom of my disease. My recovery is so much more than just not drinking. It's a way of life that is based on a foundation of being spiritually fit. I accepted a solution of recovery that demands rigorous honesty. And well, I didn't want to put boundaries on who shared that part of my life with me. I thought being open with anyone and everyone seemed like the easiest way to start out this new life of honesty on which I'd just embarked.
I Am Not Anonymous gives people in recovery on opportunity to stand up and speak out against the shame and the public intolerance that society has towards people who suffer from this disease. Tom and Kate started the site to show that not only is recovery possible... but that with recovery anything is possible. "We want to show the world that there is a light at the end of the tunnel filled with over 23 million people who live their lives in a productive and positive way. There is hope in the message and it is time to get the message out there," Tom and Kate say.
Addiction is a disease. The stigma associated with addiction has to change. It is literally a life or death matter. So if you are a parent or spouse or a friend of someone and you are ashamed or embarrassed because they are an addict or an alcoholic, then shame on you. Please tell me who that helps? I can promise you they put more shame on themselves than you ever could. Instead, educate yourself on the disease of addiction. Focus on the solution instead of the problem. I can tell you that my family has never shamed me or looked at me as an embarrassment from the moment I admitted I had a problem and needed help and that has been so beneficial in my recovery.
I was such a hypocrite when my brother passed away from a drug overdose. I would tell people that I wished he would have felt comfortable enough to open up to us... to not have been ashamed of his addiction... to know that we wouldn't think less of him or judge him for reaching out and asking for help. But, you see, I was walking around in silent desperation just like he did because I was ashamed of who I was and choices I had made. I was trying so desperately to hide who I was and didn't want to be exposed because I was ashamed of that person and what people would think of me. I was so caught up in the denial of both of our addictions and shame was what kept me in that denial for a really long time.
I sometimes feel like I let my brother down because I didn't want to face my own demons and once I did, it was too late. He was gone. I will never get my brother back -- at least not on this side of life, but what I can do is try and help others who are struggling with this disease and the best way I know how to do that is to be authentic with who I am and be open and honest with my disease and my recovery.
My recovery is something I am proud of, so I speak out about it any chance I get to educate and bring awareness about the disease of addiction. I talk about what it was like, what happened, and what my life is like today. Some of the details are dark, but if my darkness can make someone feel like they aren't alone in their own struggles -- to see the same light that I saw at the end of the tunnel, then it's worth it. I have no shame in my past because it doesn't define me and it isn't the person I am today.
Addiction is wretched, but recovery is righteous. Recovery is possible. Recovery is living up to the spirit that is me. I can't imagine why I would I ever choose to keep that anonymous. It's who I am, and so for that... I am not anonymous.
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Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.