Sharing our stories

Fighting stigma is important to me. I believe stigma is the most powerful barrier we face.

  • It drives professionals to develop “treatments” based on the expectation that we cannot recover.
  • It drives families to give up on us.
  • It makes our communities to fear us and choose to protect themselves by locking us up.
  • It makes financial interests decide that providing care to us is a waste of money.
  • It makes faith communities define the problem as sin.
  • It makes us turn on our own. How many addicts have you seen share at tables about their powerlessness and addiction as an illness, but then treat chronic relapsers with scorn and disdain, telling them that they “just don’t want it” or “haven’t made a decision”.

Like any other stigmatized group, we need to reduce our “otherness”. It seems that the best way to reduce our “otherness” is to tell our stories, let other people know that we are their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, employees, employers, PTA parents, parishioners, doctors, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, plumbers, etc.

So, I know that we need to tell our stories, but I think we need to be careful about the way we tell our stories. There is so much danger of self-enoblization(sp?), narcissism, fetishization, etc. There’s constant risk of making ourselves a spectacle rather than humanizing addicts and normalizing recovery.

I keep coming across links to these books and I’ve resisted linking to them. I don’t know enough about them to judge them, but the stylized, dramatic photos for one of them make me squeamish.

So, how do we tell our stories in ways that minimize this risk? I’m not sure I know the answer. I think that drunkalogues do little to help us. I suspect that modesty and humility when sharing our recovery are important. Maybe to keep in mind that the purpose of telling our stories is to illuminate addiction and recovery rather than aggrandizing ourselves and our struggle.

In any event, I’m excited about this:

From Billboards

3 thoughts on “Sharing our stories

  1. I think that telling our stories is a valuable tool as we attempt to dispel myths about addiction and recovery and , as you stated, we should be careful in doing this. Timing and tact are both key. I think it important that the public get an honest picture of addiction as a chronic, relapsing, brain disease and recovery as a multifaceted, pluralistic and complex process. It would be great if all of our stories were filled with humility and ended beautifully; with us as upstanding citizens and productive members of society. Unfortunately this is not the case. So where is the balance between being careful and misleading the public and creating unrealistic expectations? I suspect the balance is somewhere in telling the truth.

  2. Point taken. These public education efforts need to offer a realistic picture, and stories with sad endings can still humanize those suffering from addiction.However, the truth is that when we provide people with treatment of adequate intensity and duration, outcomes are very good. See here: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/nov03_4/a2098

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