“I refuse to feel ashamed”

Last week, my husband and I went to see a screening of the film “The Anonymous People” (which I recommend), sponsored by a local recovery support organization. The theater was packed and I felt bathed in a warm and welcoming vibe.

This was the first gathering of sober people that I’ve been a part of and I loved the sense of belonging. (Yeah, we’re all sober, dammit, and we’re proud!)

Walking away from the movie that night, hubby and I weighed in on its message. Not surprisingly, we had different viewpoints. I felt inspired and agreed with the premise of the film – that it’s time for people in long-term recovery to speak out and become advocates. Hubby, recently stung by an idiot’s judgment after “outing” himself as an ex-drinker, thinks it may be better to just quietly carry on.

He compared it to quitting smoking. He was dependent on cigarettes, quit 15 years ago, went through a tough withdrawal, and then moved on to life as an ex-smoker. He explained that he’s not a “smoker in long-term recovery”. He doesn’t feel a need to be a non-smoking advocate or part of an ex-smoker community. Smoking is simply a part of his past and he’s done with it.

This is the way my husband quit drinking. He decided to stop, he declared to his family one day that he was done with alcohol, and that was it. He never looked back.

It was different for me. After deciding (for the final time) to quit, I white-knuckled it for the first week or two, then connected with an online group of lovely people who were also struggling or had recently been there. That forum became my lifeline and today, almost 21 months later, I still check in regularly. For further reinforcement, I read sobriety-focused books and articles and I follow a number of blogs. More importantly, I had to grow out of my addiction by learning to interact differently with myself and everyone around me.

I’m a different person now, shaped by the journey I was forced to take in order to live a happily sober life. I don’t think there will be a day when I feel that recovery is behind me, nor would I want that. In fact, I feel a need to continue to grow in my recovery by helping others who are trying to get to the other side.

The older I get, the less I know. There are many different paths to recovery, and I don’t judge anyone else’s methods. AA continues to work miracles for many. Alternative support groups, online and in real life, are abundant and effective. Just putting down the bottle and walking away works for some. I admire everyone who has succeeded in building a new life without alcohol, however they’ve been able to do it.

Reluctance to take one’s recovery public is widespread and understandable. No one wants to be branded a drunk, even in the past tense.

For me, I think it’s time to open up and reach out as situations present themselves. As Kristen Johnston said in “The Anonymous People”, “The shame and secrecy are just as deadly as the disease itself…I refuse to feel ashamed of who I am. I most certainly will not be embarrassed that I’m an addict. I’m gonna tell whoever I damn well want to. ”

Amen, sister!

13 Comments on ““I refuse to feel ashamed””

  1. Heck yeah! There should be no shame in sobriety. I never got that, it’s lame to be a drunk and it’s lame to be sober???? Makes no sense. Maybe that is why it’s so hard to get in recovery. Then again, my views on anonymity have changed greatly over the time. In my early sobriety I felt secure with it. And I am not sure If i would have been able to go anywhere else and get help if I didn’t feel safe. But that’s also because I carried the shame. Now I see that trying to help yourself and get sober is not shameful! I believe now that Sobriety should be talked about freely, and celebrated every day! We should feel empowered to be sober too! I am a sober alcoholic!! – oh… I can go on and on on this topic! Thank you so much for writing about the movie, I am looking forward to seeing it.

    • Ginny says:

      Yes, Maggie. I think there’s still a need for the newly sober to feel the safety of anonymity. But it’s based on feelings of fear and insecurity that should gradually turn to pride and celebration. When that change happens, you want to shout it from the rooftops!

  2. Riversurfer says:

    I agree entirely, it IS time for people in long-term recovery to speak out. Though, I can certainly understand the many reasons to why some addicts wish to remain anonymous.

    But as long as we are anonymous, the alcoholic problem is not enough illuminated and governments may sweep this problem under the carpet. Parents will go unaware that their beloved daughters are addicted to alcohol, because they can’t imagine that they may be alcoholics. Because they might believe that it is only poor old bums, loosers, uneducated folks… who are alkies.

    But we do need to come out of the closet, tell who we are, tell our story and NOT be ashamed of this illness called alcoholism. First of all people need to know that alcoholism does not only affect the poor people or the homeless, alcohol does not discriminate anyone and ANYONE can carry this sickness. So by telling people that I’m an alcoholic, I break their stereotypical image of an alkie. I’m not a toothless bum sitting outside on a woodre bench, boozing directly from the bottle. I’m a highly functional alcoholic, work in IT-tech, earn enough money to manage on my own and living a good life. No one knew that I was addicted to alcohol even, as I sat at home, isolated myself with the alcohol.

    Thanks to my openly being an alcoholic, I could help a colleague and her brother who was addicted to drugs. I knew the routine and could direct him to proper help, he eventually went to the same rehab as I did and is today sober. Another woman contacted me in Facebook after having read an article about me, with my face showing and my name out in the open. She did’nt believe that anyone would dare publicly stand for being an alcoholic. Her and I supported one another via FB and eventually she dared take the step to seek help.

    I will never be ashamed about my alcoholism. And I will always be open to why I don’t drink alcohol. Oh a funny thing, I spoke to a co-worker a couple of months ago and he talked about his father being an alkie. I told me colleage that I too am an alkie, but a sober alkie. He giggled and asked “What is a sober alkie!? Either you are an alkie and you drink or you don’t drink and are no longer an alkie”. I told him that I will always be an alcoholic, even if I don’t drink for another 50 years. Because, if I just take that first glass of alcohol, I will go straight back into my addiction where I left it when I stopped drinking.

    For me it’s natural to use terms such as “sober alcoholic”, but there are people out there who don’t even know what that is. Why? Because people are’nt talking about it.

    Geesh… this became a very long comment! Sorry about that. I am so incredibly happy to read that you found that online group, your lifeline. Like you said, no matter how people do it, I too admire them for being able to break their addiction and then manage to remain sober.

    You are a magnificent woman, that you so much for sharing this brilliant post. I have to see that film “The Anonymous People”!

    Take care, dear Ginny!

  3. […] is an interesting blog on Life Unbuzzed. Everyone’s recovery is just as valuable as anyone else’s. And everyone has a choice of […]

  4. I would like to see the film. I have seen the trailer for some time now and it is interesting. I have struggled with the outing of myself (even that phrase is icky) about this. I have the additional baggage, so to speak, of AA traditions, which suggests that we stay anonymous at the level of press, radio and film (and social media, etc). BUT I know many in the sobersphere who are in AA and open about it. And I have heard strong arguments from both sides. I would still like to see the film and let it all settle in. There was something from the trailer that irked me a bit and that was a gent saying that we remain anonymous out of shame. I don’t see it that way in my case, but I imagine others experience it that way. I think this is a very important thing, and also a personal thing.

    Great post 🙂


  5. Ginny says:

    Thanks for your comment, Paul!
    I think you’ll find that the tone of the movie is a lot more respectful of AA and the intention of this tradition than implied by that sound bite. I agree with you that going public is a VERY personal decision. I also believe that by telling our stories, we start to remove some of the stigma and help people who are suffering in secrecy. What to do??
    I’m going to begin identifying as a person in recovery when it’s appropriate to do so. I’ll take it one situation at a time.
    Tomorrow I’ll join a Recovery Walk and I am really curious to see what it’s like!
    Take care and thank you for reading.

  6. Personally, I think there should be pride in being sober. I would think people should shout it from the mountain tops. It takes strength and perseverance, and I TG for family and friends who have chosen sobriety. It was pure hell and now it’s sweet heaven, well for the most part 😉

  7. […] Last week I completed an important step toward becoming an advocate and coach for others in recovery. The seeds were planted here. […]

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