I Believe My Life Will Change on October 4

Due to the overwhelming registration responses we received, we have moved this event to a larger location.
News release from the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy, one of over 500 organizers of UNITE to Face Addiction, the rally in Washington, D.C., October 4, 2015, in support of addictions recovery

When I received an email from my workplace about UNITE to Face Addiction, I began to cry.

No more will I have to do this alone.

Today, I have been without a drink for 1000 days.

1000 Days Sober

They have been the worst 1000 days of my life.

Addiction occurs across a spectrum. Most people recover on their own. I am one of the ones who could not stop drinking on my own, no matter how hard I tried. I am one of the 1 in 15 who can stop drinking through support group attendance. I am also one of the ones who still wants to drink, no matter how hard I try.

That push-pull of want-don’t exhausts me.

But I think what wears me down the most is the feeling of not belonging anymore, and the belief I don’t deserve to. I experience my true self, my inner essence, as compromised by addiction. I feel like I got made into a discardable outlier and I’m trying to find a way to win back membership in the normal distribution. But no matter how hard I try to explain to people who don’t have what I have what it’s like to be me, I just don’t see understanding in their eyes. “Why didn’t you just stop?” “Why do you still have to go to meetings after all this time?” “You can do anything you put your mind to. You put your mind to it and stopped, right?” “Well, you’re okay now that you’ve stopped, right?” “Why can’t you just focus on the positive?”

“Why can’t you be back to the way you were, Anne?”

Oh, oh, if only I could.

With those I know who have what I have, my attempts to sort belief from knowledge about how to feel better and to get better are usually met with resistance, even reprimand. I understand the desperation to hold on to what seems to be working. The consequences of it not working are destruction. But beliefs aren’t helping me. I feel dangerously close to drinking again.

I wish I could find someone to talk to who also sought knowledge.

While I appreciate all the celebrities and public officials who are out about being in recovery from addiction, it’s these people who are sharing their faces and names and stories – who have what I have –  who give me hope.

I’m not idealistic. I think what they’re doing is risky, even dangerous. The fear of people with addiction – addicts and alcoholics – is usually experience-based. I’ve discouraged others in recovery from sharing. In their heart-of-hearts, no matter what they might say, most people believe addiction is a choice. If we wanted to change badly enough, we would. We might say we’re in recovery but the belief is that we could choose not to be at any time. That belief makes interaction with us risky. Hire me? Invite me over for dinner? Let me babysit your kids?

I believe I am suffering because I am under-treated for addiction. Once-per-week individual counseling and support group attendance is not enough to address what ails me, or what ails people who struggle with acute addiction. Many parents get a second mortgage on their homes to pay for rehab for their addicted children. My father hired a team of researchers, of which I was a member, to discover what addiction was, how to treat it, and who was offering that treatment so I could receive it. We found tragic lack of consensus and direction on any of those. Based on our research, I have cobbled together a treatment plan for myself and execute it the best I can. (I sleep each night with a teddy bear because addiction might be an attachment disorder.  What else can a girl in a small town do but everything she can?)

I believe the rally in Washington on October 4 will do wonders for the conversation about stigma and addiction.

What I need for it to do is wonders for the conversation about what truly treats addiction. I’m dying for a drink out here.

I cried so many times when I watched the film The Anonymous People. People like I am walking in local marches?! How brave! And one young woman flashed her sweatshirt at the camera with its one-word logo: Sober.

Words used to describe UNITE to Face Addiction and its mission include “ground-breaking,” “historic,” “transformative.”

Tomorrow night will be held a ground-breaking, historic, transformative event on the scale of a march on Washington in my small town – the first public event ever that celebrates addictions recovery. My boss is the leading advocate for addictions recovery in my small town. She always credits her team, but on this one, she made this event happen.

I ordered a logo-imprinted shirt to wear to her event. I’m trying to get up the courage to wear it to a support group meeting tonight. Some may celebrate with me. Some may accuse me of being the s-word. Out of respect for the reason we meet in secrecy – fear of the consequences of stigma – I will wear a coat over my shirt until I’m inside.

Tomorrow, if I can keep from drinking tonight, I will wear the t-shirt openly and with as much shame-confined pride as I can muster. Given what it’s like to be me, that I’m 1000 days without a drink makes me, well, an outlier. By all rights, according to all the numbers, I should have had a drink by now. I certainly have dreamed of it, longed for it.

On October 4, I will wear the t-shirt by myself while I’m home alone watching the TV, hoping some brave station will cover the brave march on Washington. Maybe after October 4, I’ll wear it to the grocery store or the gym. And maybe in 10 years, people like I am – one in ten Americans – won’t have to wear stand-up, stand-out t-shirts at all. They’ll be getting treatment that’s known to work and feeling better and getting better.

The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect the positions of my associates, clients, employers, friends or relatives.


  1. If I get to see you in that shirt, I will applaud you. I grew up surrounded by alcoholics. Only one family member that I know of had the courage to quit drinking. I lost two fathers to alcoholism. I would not want to lose you, my friend.

  2. Catherine Doss says

    I salute you, Anne Giles.