Today’s guest author is Heather E., a young lady who has been a huge inspirations and a part of my recovery journey since day one, 10 years ago! She has taught me more than I could ever thank her for. Heather started her recovery journey at the tender age of 17, and has now been sober for 12 years. She has always followed her own path with courage and hope, helping and inspiring many along the way. Recently she has become a part of the amazing, stigma smashing, I am not anonymous movement. This is her story:
I Am Not Anonymous
Written by Heather E.
I walked into my regular Monday night meeting wearing my new ‘I Am Not Anonymous’ tee-shirt. I knew I was making a statement, but what better place was there to wear it?
A guy glanced my way, read it, and said, “That’s an interesting shirt”. I responded (somewhat reservedly) “It’s an interesting website, you should check it out”. I briefly explained what IAMNOTANONYMOUS.ORG is all about, and let it linger a bit in the air. Almost immediately after I shared another guy in the room remarked, “Doesn’t that break traditions? Don’t they get grief about that?” Haha. “Yes, they do.” I laughed, because I knew wearing that tee-shirt would likely direct that grief towards me.
I got my tee-shirt the previous weekend (just two days prior) when I met Tom and Kate for my photo-shoot; they are the co-creators of IAMNOTANONYMOUS.ORG. I was embraced by an incredibly warm, genuine hug by Kate, and a head nod and firm handshake by Tom. The welcoming atmosphere they created in their small Marriott hotel room instantly put me at ease and reinforced why I was here – to connect and spread the joy of recovery.
This might seem like a strange project to get involved with if you simply want to spread the joy of recovery. The ‘anonymous’ controversy has been a hot topic in the recovery community since the release of Greg Williams movie The Anonymous People. In a nutshell (if you have not heard it), the disease of addiction (alcohol included) is a shame-laden disease, and often when we are in – or close to someone with – addiction, sharing it with others can feel like airing our dirty laundry.
Aside from the issue of shame (which we all have felt) there is a tradition in most twelve-step programs, which states that as members we are to remain anonymous at the level of press, radio, and films. When I was newly sober it was explained to me that this tradition was not only for the protection of the group, but also for the protection of the individual. After all if celebrities were to rise up out of our group (someone normal becomes the famous face of recovery), than relapse, surely the rest of the world would look at that as a failure in terms of the program. “It doesn’t work,” they might cry… possibly preventing others from giving it a try. Addiction is an incredibly difficult disease to navigate, and the relapse rate is high. That does not mean you should not try… or twelve step programs does not work.
In terms of a personal handicap, if I were to go shouting my rejoices to the world certainly my ego would build to a level where I would begin (again) feeling a level of great self-importance. Seeing as how we are attempting to right size the ego in recovery, this danger threatens to aid me in believing that I no longer need help because I have got this – a false belief that has taken many back to the bottle/drug-of-choice.
So where does I Am Not Anonymous and The Anonymous People fit into this? Some people believe the tradition of anonymity is hindering, not helping, the addict who needs recovery. By not sharing openly with the world our trials and tribulations, and showing the world that recovery works (and it is not something to be afraid of, ashamed of, etc.) are we enabling the stigma around addiction? These movements aim to diminish this stigma.
I could go on for paragraphs about this issue and how it relates to addiction. As an addict myself, I know the jarring grip of shame that comes along with finally acknowledging and owning the behaviors I exhibited during my use. It is when “we’re not bad people getting good, but sick people getting well” becomes a mantra, I had to repeat over and over, to remind myself I am not just Gods junk.
So why did I submit an article, get my picture taken, and wear that shirt to a meeting (knowing it might stir the pot)? I did it for you. I did it for me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be the person on the microphone bellowing the words of recovery, but I can do my small part.
Even if recovery never becomes ‘main-stream’ and is always the laughing joke amongst the bars, having outlets such as IAMNOTANONYMOUS.ORG for those who are seeking help, for those who do need to hear that someone else has experienced their shame and their pain, feel vital to me. Any way I can reach a hand out, I want to reach it, and say, “Join me… it is better on this side.”
You can see Heather’s photo and read her full story HERE.
To see the many beautiful faces of recovery and read their inspiring stories, please visit the site:
I AM NOT ANONYMOUS
“It (addiction) is a powerful disease and the stigma associated with it is just as deadly as the disease itself.”
If you would like to share your story on this blog, to help inspire and support those still struggling with addiction and/or alcoholism, as well as those currently in recovery, please send me an email to email@example.com.
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