“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson
My recovery has been a huge experiential journey during which I have rediscovered long-buried facets of my personality. I am certain that I am not alone in this. In recovery, things can change very quickly! I have metamorphosed from a ‘secret’ alcoholic, constantly hiding and denying my drinking, to one of my home town’s most visible addicts in recovery.
Like most addicts, in the beginning I was so deep in a hole of shame and guilt, that I still hid my situation from all but those closest to me. I had only just begun telling the truth and was starting to free myself from a world of deception and delusion. The first step, or the first truth, is always acknowledging you have a problem. The liberation from the constant anxiety that surrounds all the lies became almost intoxicating – I have written before about the simplicity of an honest life.
I then began participating in the groups at Inclusion and I started to get used to telling my story truthfully. I also shared my recovery with friends, but I could still hide what I wanted from the wider world. When I started writing this blog, I shared it on my Facebook page. I also discovered the power of stating openly that I was a recovering addict. I began to refuse drinks I was offered by saying, “No thank you. I am an alcoholic.” When you say these words, someone will invariably want to speak to you. Addiction touches so many people and most of them need to talk about it.
In February this year, I began my job as Recovery Coordinator at The Edge Café. Part of my job is promoting our work. This is not difficult as we are a very positive ‘good-news’ story. I told my story to journalists and local television reporters with the same honesty. My recovery story was now in the public domain, hidden from nobody. Teachers at my daughter’s school told her they had seen me on the television. Fellow parents told me the same, so I began to have great concerns for my daughter’s feelings. This was a huge line crossed. It was an emotional moment when she told me that she didn’t mind as she was proud of me and my recovery.
I am now contacted by the local media to comment on addiction-related news stories. My wife calls me Cambridge’s ‘go-to’ addict. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t prefer anonymity some days, but it is vital for people like me to stand up and be counted. We are a visible demonstration that recovery is not only possible but rewarding and fun. As I have said before, you never know when your words will reach somebody who needs to talk, be they a struggling addict, or a family member or friend of an addict. It would also be false if I said there was no pressure attached to being the public face of recovery in Cambridge, but the team here at The Edge is so supportive and nurturing that this has yet to become an issue. I also have complete support at home from my family. I am happy and grateful to be Cambridge’s ‘go-to’ addict.
“Self-control, openness, the ability to engage with others, to plan and persist – these are the attributes that get people in the door and on the job, and lead to productive lives.” James Heckman