When the Silence Ends

If you and two more people were on a raft, the other two both of seeming equal “quality” – however you might define that – and only one could stay on the raft in order for you to survive, and one of the two was a known addict or alcoholic in recovery, whom would you push over the side?

I am contemplating attending Unite to Face Addiction, the march on Washington, D.C. on October 4, 2015, to  support “solutions to addiction and the harms of alcohol and other drug use that are based on science and compassion, not stigma and shame.” (Unite’s lead organizer, Greg D. Williams, shares his vision on The Huffington Post.)

Unite to Face Addiction’s organizing slogan is “The Day the Silence Ends.”

In October, 2014, my advice to people in recovery from addiction was to keep silent. I gave the same advice last month. After excruciating deliberation and consultation with family and I friends, I ended my silence and shared publicly 6 months earlier that I was recovering from addiction to alcohol. Now, 16 months after first sharing, I still don’t see another choice for myself.

But I’m having trouble typing, “I have no regrets.” I regret profoundly that I suffer from addiction to alcohol. This is not one of those “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” gigs. The killing part is too close. And that others also suffer from this brutal, relentless condition? Beyond heartbreaking.

As Unite’s mission points out, shame and stigma are killers, too.

I wouldn’t wish addiction on anyone. But I also wouldn’t wish the social consequences of being known as an “alcoholic” or “addict” on anyone, either.

Brené Brown defines personal, internal shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

When society believes what we’ve done makes us unworthy of connection? Oh, my, it hurts. And it’s frightening as well. In the raft scenario, I assume, given the choice between me and another woman with similar attributes, given that you know I’m in recovery from addiction to alcohol, you’d give me the shove.

Even so, look at all the brave people ending the silence.

Photo: Risa Pesapane

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