I am more than my past. I am more than my actions. I am more than the sum of the parts that make me up. I have done things that I am not proud of and I have done things that bring me joy. I have hurt and been hurt. I have lied, stolen, and cheated. I have helped, loved, and been loved. I have gone to the depths of despair and returned and I refuse to hide who I am. I am Rose and I’m an Alcoholic.
There is a growing movement towards getting away from the anonymity that once reigned supreme in 12 Step programs. Groups, like I Am Not Anonymous, are attempting to move recovery out of the dark and into the light of public discourse in order to help paint a better picture of what a recovered alcoholic or addict looks like. In the past, this was unheard of, maybe for good reason, but their actions will hopefully help to remove some of the stigma on what it means to be an alcoholic or addict and let others who no longer want to hide step up and own their recovery in public. I was gifted with the opportunity to see this movie while in treatment and it was an eye opener! It allowed me to realize that I no longer had to live in the shadows.
The reason for the initial anonymity that members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous engaged in is well documented. During the early and mid 20th century people could genuinely ruin their careers by outing themselves as a member of one of these fellowships, but this not so much the case today. Even though our society today is much more understanding of what it means to be in recovery, there is still a stigma attached to being open about being clean and sober.
This stigma does not just reside in the outside world but can also be felt within 12 Step Programs themselves. Anonymity is a touchy subject for many. Some believe that there is no reason to tell people outside of the rooms that you are in recovery while others believe there is no reason to hide it and as you can probably already tell I believe the latter.
I don’t see any reason why I should have to hide the fact that I’m in recovery because it is not something that I am ashamed of. In fact, it is actually one of the things that I am most proud of in my life, second only to my children. I wouldn’t want to hide away my children, so why would I want to hide my recovery? I don’t mean to come off harsh in saying any of this, as I know that each person has a right to his or her opinions, but it bothers me to no extent that I am made to feel guilty for wanting to be open about my recovery.
I used the word ashamed when describing why I don’t want to hide my recovery and it is the first word that came to my mind when I thought about why I would need to hide something. It is almost as if the same shame that I felt during my active addiction somehow carried over into my recovery and so to express my recovery openly would someone expose something shameful. To me, this idea is at the heart of the stigma that seeks to silence my openness about recovery and it is what I must reject in order to be truly open about who I am.
Society, for the most part, has no idea what a recovered alcoholic or addict looks like. They believe us to be like Bubbles from The Wire barely holding on and struggling to stay clean day in and day out and by me not talking about my recovery openly I help to reinforce this misinformation. It is like lying by omission to me because I allow misconceptions to continue when I could be helping to break the stereotype.
Breaking the stereotype does, however, bring up a good point for anonymity because I was told very early on that if I am going to tell people that I am in recovery then I better be sure to live the part. I was told that it was possible that I would be the only version of recovery that someone may see and so if I am living dirty I could give someone the wrong impression. This, however, is not all bad because it not only gives me another reason to live my life in an honest manner, but it also can help to keep me on my toes. If I am going to be open about my sobriety then I really have to live it and I can’t just phone in it.
To me, sobriety is a journey to self-acceptance. I personally feel that I cannot learn to truly accept myself if I am denying a major part of my life. It is like walking on eggshells around the pink elephant in the room and to do so is counterproductive to what I’m trying to do with my life. By exposing my recovery I am able to feel more comfortable in my own skin and I do not have to fear that someone will find me out because I already have everything on the table.
My choice is to be open about my sobriety. I no longer want to reject and hide a very important part of my life. I believe that this is the way that I can be most useful to those around me. It may give me the opportunity to help people who otherwise would not have gotten help and I believe it will allow me to create better relationships with people because I am being open and honest. I want my children to know who I am and what I am about and hopefully, by doing so they can avoid the same mistakes that I’ve made. Like I said starting out I am Rose and I’m an Alcoholic, and I’m proud of that fact.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.