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Anonymous Addict

June 9, 2010

I remain anonymous in my blogging about addiction. Why? Because of the stigma associated with it. As a recovering addict, people only see and hear the word “addict”. They generally ignore the word “recovering” (you did too, didn’t you?) and immediately profile me as the “typical” addict. That is not who I am. I’m betting there are a lot of non-typical addicts/recovering addicts out there just like me.

If you met me on the street without knowing about my addiction struggle, you would place me in the “normal” profile and category for any other society member. I am educated (one class shy of earning my Bachelors of Science). I have had a successful career (prior to addiction). I’m working my way back up now. I look like the all-American woman. I am your neighbor, your fellow co-worker, your fellow church goer, the mom of your child’s friend. I stand in line behind you at Wal-Mart, at the grocery store, at the convenient store, at the bank, at the post-office. You always give me a polite smile and hello. You are never afraid to shake my hand. You open doors for me. All because I look “normal”. I don’t look like an addict.

The profile of an addict is not a picturesque one. If you close your eyes, I’m sure the image that comes to mind is a trashy one. Skinny, scraggly-haired, filthy, poorly dressed man/woman. Uneducated, jobless, homeless and broke. Cigarette smoker, pot smoker, cocaine snorter, pill-taker, shoot up junkie. All these things you see in an addict. The homeless guy on the street corner, begging for change. The high-heeled prostitute walking the streets. The guy holding a sign at the end of an exit ramp. These people look like drug addicts. Therefore they should be, right?

No. It is me who is/was the drug addict. The woman you shared a bench with at church this morning. The woman you chatted with at the pediatrics office about how to get your son to eat his vegetables. The woman you opened the door for at the classy Italian restaurant. Would you treat me the same if you knew I had been addicted to pain pills? Would you shake my hand if you knew it once held a syringe full of Oxycontin?

These profiles and categories we create in our mind mislead us and prevent us from helping others. I want to reach out to the addicts who need help. I want to share my story openly and honestly with the world. I just don’t want you to start looking at me like a druggie. And I know you will.

For now, I want to be “normal”.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2010 7:48 pm

    You don’t have to post this comment (if you don’t want to); I just wanted you to know that I’ve missed “seeing” you and I have a few things to say about your latest post but look at the time; I’ll be going home shortly!! I’ll hit ya up tonight for sure.

    In the meantime… hugs my friend! 🙂

  2. June 10, 2010 12:26 pm

    Tons of apologies for not getting back here last night as I intended….

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said regarding anonymity versus shouting from the rooftops that you were/are an addict. There is a HUGE stigma attached to that very word and your stereotypical descriptions of them all are on point!

    It’s a real shame that society does not look at drug addiction in the same light they do alcoholism. Both are diseases; the difference is only their legality.

    Everyday we read in newspapers across America about accidents involving alcohol and many many times, they are repeated offenses by the same offender who’s only received a slap on the wrist yet in some states, having a “roach” found in your car can be cause for being charged with drug paraphernalia or some other insignificant charge.

    When I stopped using, I too kept my secrets to myself. For me, there was no real reason for anyone knowing my struggles anyway; I was going to conquer my addiction and I chose to fight my fight silently and anonymously.

    It is only been in the past few years that I am willing to share only SOME of my stories… for the same fear as you… I choose not to be categorized when I no longer am that person.

    Get to know me first, like me for who I am TODAY and then and only then… I may choose to include you in my past.

    • June 10, 2010 1:13 pm

      Exactly! Judge me for who I am TODAY! Yet, my past is the reason I AM who I am today. It has certainly made me a better person. I am more humble, grateful, appreciative, nonjudgmental. Ironically, addiction improved me.

  3. June 10, 2010 9:12 pm

    Wonderful post. So many “normal” people have no idea what its like for alcoholics and addicts. My husband used to tell me, “just quit, it isn’t that hard.” PSH! Many people are surprised to find out that I am a member of AA/NA, etc. Many people, even after 10 months try to convince me that I’m really not an alcoholic, I just need to make sure I don’t get out of control…oh how I want to explain that there is no self control within me. Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  4. June 13, 2010 1:49 pm

    I’m so glad I found your blog! Thank you for giving such an eloquent expression of the challenges recovering people face. I’m a doctor treating addiction, and my patients are great people. I hate that other people in their lives don’t bother to get to know them better, just stick a label on them.
    and thanks for respecting the 11th tradition.

    • June 14, 2010 1:02 am

      The feeling is mutual. I have enjoyed reading your posts and look forward to all of your new ones. It is a pleasure to “meet” you. Thank you for the sweet remarks. God bless you and keep you.

  5. June 17, 2010 6:15 pm

    What a great post! It gives wonderful insight into how it feels a humble recovering addict – you are not shouting it from the rooftops but just getting on with being ‘normal’. The stigma attached the addition is so damaging and I wish there was something we could do about it.

    When my family found out my sister Hannah was a heroin addict we were reeling from shock and somewhere scared of the judgement of others. Over the years I have told more and more people. It is not necessarily my secret to tell but it has helped no end when those I have opened up to have responded with empathy. I would love to shout it out from the rooftops – show the world addiction can happen to anyone but I’m not sure that would work….

    Thanks for sharing.
    Nora

  6. June 21, 2010 2:52 pm

    The “stigma” is all because of , what I call, the 12 steps to hell” groups. They manipulate peoples minds to believer that once an addict, always an addict. I don’t know of too many parallels to this. This tag is necessary to overflow the “green stuff” into the hands of doctors, 12 step rehabs, hospitals, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, authors, etc… If these 12 steppers didn’t keep “addicts” in bondage for life, they would destroy their sick ways of earning income. This angers me greatly! I believe that the 12 steppers is just another cult; a cult who prays on people who just made a bad choice and ended up in addiction.
    I myself, was handed a devestating addiction by a physician who created his own league of addicts in order to have a steady income. He was professionally disciplined in my state for his own addiction and that of one of his employees (an anesthesiologist on heroin). So, he took the easy way out and became a legal drug lord. His office was routinely overbooked with standing room only whenever you got there.
    I am “an addict no more”. I had an addiction that brought me near death. I was detoxed and, with my deep deep faith in God, I got over it. When I speak of my time in addiction, it’s in the past tense…NOT present. I refuse to be branded for life and that’s just what I tell my coaching clients. When detox ends, so is your addiction. Let’s NOT keep living in addiction…let’s live in the now with hope for our future. Many times there are underlying emotional desorders and emotional trauma associated with those who find themselves in an addiction. These things need some type of ongoing care to remedy the desire to numb onself.
    My point? When it’s over…it’s over. People should stop kicking a dead horse.

    • June 21, 2010 4:09 pm

      I completely understand your point of view but I’m not convinced that my blogging about addiction is like “kicking a dead horse”. I refer to myself as an ongoing recovery addict because that is in fact what I am. I have relapsed many times. In order to prevent the next relapse I must be ever so aware in my mind that yes, I am an addict. Awareness is the key for me. I’m aware that certain things trigger my desire to use. Therefore, with help, I try to to overcome this desire and not use. Although I do not attend NA meetings, I have in the past. I can easily relate to their program and believe it to be of great importance in some addict’s life. We all have unique ways of dealing with addiction. One specific way is not necesarily the best way for everyone. I encourage you to continue the awesome work you are doing without insulting other programs. There is plenty of room for any and all programs where the goal is to overcome addiction. Thank you for your insights and I look forward to reading many more of your posts.

      • June 21, 2010 4:52 pm

        I never said that your blogging about addiction is like kicking a dead horse and am so sorry that my words permitted you to feel this way. The “kicking a dead horse” that I am referring to is addressing the “stigma” you mention about being an addict. I also understand that there are many ways to overcome addiction. For yourself and others who don’t mind being labeled an “addict” for the rest of our life, that’s fine. Personally, I am past my addiction and have seen so many miracles of those I work with who are able to move past their addiction…leaving it in their past where it belongs. Often, I come across people who truly believe that addiction is never over and this makes me cringe. It’s only that when people believe that there are such things as “relapses” of addiction, there surely will be. Addiction IS a choice. Disease is NOT a choice. Addiction is NOT a disease…it’s the worst choice one can make in their lifetime. As human beings, we tend to remember the good (the feelings of being high) and we too soon forget the evil and wicked terror of of withdrawal and increased levels of cravings. So, when people who tend to distance themselves from life and it’s emotions, they also are the ones who tend to use again when they get emotionally challenged. I also will work ONLY with God in the mix. For addiction healing and with my experience, when God is invited in, miracles happen. I see that each and every day.
        In closing, please do not miscontrue what I said to be any type of personal attack on you. I only pray that whatever you are doing will work for you where you can just let addiction “go”.
        God Bless!

      • June 21, 2010 5:17 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I really do appreciate your view on it and applaud you for your success. I too include God in my struggle and could never do it without him. I still lean more toward the view that addiction is a disease although for some people it is probably simply a choice. However, once that very bad choice is made and full blown addiction has the person in it’s death grip, I believe it to be at the point of disease (and a fatal one at that). If it had been a choice for me to get out, I would have chosen to simply stop being an addict. Again, thanks so much for sparking my interest and opening my mind. I really do appreciate hearing your take on addiction.

  7. June 21, 2010 6:43 pm

    I feel good that I, at best, sparked your interest! There is complete healing for all of your tomorrows…you just have to want it and want God in a very deep level. When you become a child of God, “all things are possible”. A friend and colleague of mine had written an article about the 12 steppers belief that one is “powerless over addiction”. He said in his writing, “Can you just imagine Jesus Himself in a 12 step meeting going up before all the people gathered and saying…’I am an addict. I am powerless over my addiction'”??? When we invite Jesus “in” to our lives, He gives us the supernatural power to end addiction. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER, and of LOVE, and of a SOUND MIND” ( 2Tim 1:7).
    I’m not trying to be critical or speak with condemnation…just trying to give you a piece of what I have gained from my healing (and that of many others) and my deep faith in God & all His amazing promises. I wish you nothing but the best in your journey from addiction back into a glorious life.

  8. July 1, 2010 4:00 am

    Beautiful blog. I understand your need to be discreet and I appreciate your sharing such honest, true experiences. You are helping your readers. God bless you.

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