Saturday, March 17, 2018

Anonymity Doesn't Mean Not Telling Your Story of Recovery in Public

I think "anonymity" is overrated and misunderstood. Of course we must protect the confidence of ALL those we meet in Alcoholics Anonymous, in treatment, and other recovery programs. However, that doesn't mean we should be silent about our own stories of recovery in a public forum. Sharing our experience, strength and hope with others is part of what keeps us sober and helps others who are still struggling. In the United States, more than 23 million people live with addiction. Half of these people struggle with an addiction to drugs other than alcohol, illegal and prescription. 40% of addicts don't seek help because they are not ready. 60% do not seek help because they are ashamed, afraid or don't know. Over 200 people die everyday from drug overdoses. Even more disturbing, adolescent substance abuse is skyrocketing. Even though the media wants you to believe marijuana is a wonder drug, marijuana is the primary substance of abuse in the vast majority of treatment discharges for children (74.7 percent), followed by alcohol (14.8 percent.)
AA, and other 12 step recovery groups, would never have taken off in the 1940's, and given millions of addicts and alcoholics a second chance, if it weren't for widespread advertising and publicity:
1) The printing and distribution of millions of copies of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
2) The publicity tours of of Bill W. and the 1989 movie featuring James Woods and James Garner "My Name is Bill W."
3) When John D. Rockefeller Jr., a renowned businessman and philanthropist, gave a dinner for New York A-listers in 1940 to publicize the work AA was doing.
4) The famous March 1, 1941, publication of an article in The Saturday Evening Post describing AA's extraordinary success which skyrocketed AA into the public realm.
The stigma around addiction has decreased dramatically over the years and it has been more accepted as a disease of brain and body that needs detox and treatment, not vilification. Many people in recovery are hiding in plain sight. If more people came forward with their stories, to carry their message to the still suffering addict and alcoholic, more people would be aware there's hope, there's a way out and aware they aren't alone. That's what happened to me.
Hollywood and the media pushes drugs on our kids. They glorify pot, pills and opioids with catchy rap lyrics. CNN newscasts use giddy anchors to show the proper way to use a bong. Our TV shows are flooded with ads for psych meds that promise a happier life through chemicals. Why don't the sober people in Hollywood and media push staying clean, living a sober life, the power of treatment, and the benefits of recovery and 12 step programs instead? Why don't we?
Many people don't seek help because they are not ready. But many do not seek help because they can't afford it or are ashamed of the stigma surrounding addiction. They are afraid of losing their job or the negative opinions of others. Imagine what could happen if we spoke out. What a paradigm shift that would be.

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