When I walked into the door to rehab in early 2008 at the age of 29, I was given a lengthy input questionnaire. I decided it was time to be honest for once. There was just one question I had to leave blank. I pondered it for the better part of a day and kept returning to it with no decent answer. What is spirituality? I didn’t have a clue. I reluctantly left it blank. By the time I left rehab almost three months later to return to the life I had left, I had a much better understanding of what spirituality was and how it could help me.
There was a tapestry that hung in one of the common areas at the treatment center that said something that I was drawn to. It read, “Grant Me the Will to Bear Discomfort.” That was a concept I had never thought of. It was the first prayer I ever said. Almost seven years later, it is the one I repeat the most. It is the one I offer to others as well. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m still not entirely sure who or what I talk to when I pray. But I can say that every single time I have asked for the will to bear discomfort, I have somehow been granted it.
That single phrase made me think about how much I considered myself of victim of everything that had ever happened to me up to that point. Going through heartache and bad days is a human right. They are just as much a right as happiness. I had gone through 29 years of my life trying to numb any negative feeling with alcohol and multiple substances. I had no idea how to embrace the ups and downs of life. That is what recovery has given me.
Since the day I left treatment I have been very open about being an addict in recovery. The freedom that came over me as a result of that is a feeling that I don’t want to trade in for a drink. About four years after getting sober, I started a blog. Now, not just friends would know about my life in recovery but even strangers could see what an impact recovery has had on me. As a result of me sharing my stories, there is something that happened that I never expected and still get squeamish about. It is when people call me inspirational. I don’t feel I have done anything that any person next to me isn’t capable of. But it is when I think about the stigma still attached to addiction, that I understand where a person may call someone in recovery, like me, an inspiration.
There is still such negativity toward this disease. It makes sense sometimes. It lead me to a dark existence of lies and drowned emotions. That is active addiction. That is not recovery. I can share a specific story that even after six years in recovery, and still have a negative stigma thrown at me. Someone told a mother that was considering having me watch her son that I shouldn’t be allowed to watch children because I am a drug addict. Six years of being honest. Six years of volunteering myself toward numerous local initiatives to better the community. Six years of making myself a better person so that I could be of service to others. Every ounce of good that I had turned toward was negated because I have a disease that I take the responsibility to openly treat every single day of my life. That hurt so much. I cried. I lost sleep. I even lost a few friends. I wonder how often that happens without it getting back to me. The blessing in the situation is the strength it gave me. It would not make me silent. I would never let that quiet my voice. If anything, it made me want to fight harder. After a few years of staying home with my children, I have recently started looking to get back into the working world. I can’t help but wonder how my openness and public blog could deter an employer from hiring me. Would they consider someone who had been in remission from cancer for six years to be the same risk to their business?
The life I lead now is one of peace. I take care of myself. I still have stress in my life but I learn to manage it without checking out via a drink or a drug. It was once hard to imagine a life where that is possible. My beliefs before getting sober were that I deserved to not feel pain. It wasn’t until I asked myself what made me so special that I don’t need to feel pain like the rest of the human race, that my eyes opened. Pain isn’t easy. It is a part of the whole picture of the human experience. And now, I get to have that. I see all of life’s battles as necessary experiences. Everything counts.
If my life ends tomorrow, I will leave this world knowing that I fought. I choose not to be anonymous in recovery to fight for myself and any other single person that is afraid to come clean. There is no shame in getting better. I stand by my brothers and sisters in recovery. And you know what’s crazy? People come to me. People come to a former drug addict for guidance and advice about life. If that makes me someone that people don’t want to be around or that shouldn’t watch children, I’ll take it. There is too much to be happy about. There are too many places I can be of help and even more that lift me up when I’m the one who needs guidance.
I don’t know that the stigma associated with addiction will ever fully go away but I believe that I can help make it better. I may face more people trying to shame me. It is going to be alright because I opened myself up to a world of spirituality and believed that this whole thing isn’t just about me. Discomfort is a right and I will continually ask for the will to bear it. I am blessed to be united with so many women and men on this journey. I am proud to say that my name is Lauren Sommerfield and I am not anonymous.