By Cheryl Steinberg
Addiction and recovery seems to be having more of a presence in pop culture, such as in TV and film; probably for the clandestine nature of 12 step fellowships – with the whole anonymity thing – and perhaps also because of the sheer number of people who are affected by addiction (1 in 3). Some get it right, or close to right, while others are way off base. Here are 15 things I wish normies knew about being an addict.
#1. Not to take the things we did in our active addiction personally
Many of us in our addiction lied, stole, and cheated. That’s not really who we are as it is often goes hand-in-hand with substance abuse. It really wasn’t personal and we’re each a work in progress (See #4).
#2. Why we need to go to meetings
It’s part of our new maintenance program. Instead of subsisting on drugs, we attend meetings to support us in staying clean and sober.
#3. Why we need a sponsor and sober supports
We can certainly be friends with normies but, it’s also über-important for us to have sober friends that can support us in our sobriety, simply because they can understand firsthand what we go through. As for having a sponsor, it’s not nearly enough to just go to meetings. We also need a mentor of sorts to take us through step work.
#4. What Step work is
The 12 steps are basically a blueprint for learning how to be self-aware, conscientious of our shortcomings, and learning to take responsibility for actions. Also referred to as ‘working a program,’ it simply means learning how to be a better human being. And, basically, it could be applied to anyone, not just addicts and alcoholics.
#5. Also, that working a program doesn’t mean we’re now ‘Jesus freaks’
A 12 step program emphasizes building a strong spiritual foundation by finding a Higher Power of our own understanding. Therefore, for some people, their Higher Power might be Jesus, and that’s cool. For others of us, that’s not the case. There’s a huge distinction between being religious and being spiritual.
#6. That no, we can’t still drink or *just* smoke weed
Being clean and sober means we don’t take anything that’s mood or mind altering and, last I checked, both weed and alcohol do just that. It doesn’t matter that marijuana is becoming legalized, for people like us, it’s off-limits. Plus, as hard as it might be to understand, it’s impossible to *just* do anything. We do it till it’s done, and then go find more.
#7. We don’t judge our normie friends for drinking
Generally speaking, we have accepted that drinking is something that some people can do “successfully,” meaning that they don’t go overboard with it.
#8. We don’t always want to disclose the drugs we did or the things we did to get them
Here’s the deal don’t ask us what we did for drugs and we won’t ask you what you would do for a Klondike bar.
#9. On the contrary, we’re pretty open about our addiction
So, don’t be all awkward if you want to ask us questions, just don’t be a d*ck about it. There’s something called ‘tact’ – use it.
#10. Being an addict doesn’t make us bad people
A lot of people still think of addiction as a ‘moral failing,’ that those of us with addiction are somehow bad seeds. This simply is not the case. Get informed.
#11. Having the disease of addiction is not a choice but that we have a choice to recover
Addiction is a psychological disorder, just like depression and schizophrenia are psychological disorders. And what that means is that we addicts don’t have control over the fact that we have this disease, however, we do control what we do with this knowledge; we can choose to recover.
#12. You don’t need to handle us with kid gloves
We’re pretty tough considering what we’ve been through. Don’t patronize us, please. We’re not fragile, nor are we broken.
#13. Many of us also have disorders such as PTSD, so please no loud noises or sudden movements
(This one’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor). It’s quite common for people with addiction to also have other disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), therefore, we are fighting several battles all at once. We’re pretty tough folks. But, as the philosopher Plato said, “Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
#14. That ‘addict’ isn’t a dirty word
Kind of like those old build boards that said: “‘Virgin’: Teach Your Kids It’s Not a Dirty Word.” The term addict still carries a negative stigma but, the more information that comes out about its legitimacy as a chronic disease and the more people speak out about their experience in recovery, especially celebrities, the better the understanding amongst normies.
#15. Lastly, it should be pretty obvious by now that we generally have a sense of humor when it comes to our addiction and recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, such as addiction, help is available. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 and you can speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and share with you our resources. You are not alone.