My name is Pete Navatto and I have been living in recovery since January 1st 2011. I lived in recovery silently for almost four years, never saying the words recovery, alcoholism, or addiction to anyone. The stigma of those words was too strong for me to use to talk about my journey. Or so I thought. Part of the reason I kept quiet was due to shame, and part was due to my lack of finding a comfort zone to talk about those things.
In the 4 years I had been sober, I had met many new friends, but I never spoke about my past. From time to time, I thought maybe I should be more upfront about one of the most important aspects of my life. But this is where the stigma attached to addiction comes in to my story.
In my past, there is no great tragedy or event that was a so-called 'rock bottom.' I held down a good job for many years. I never got arrested. I didn't have any tragic accident that injured myself or someone else. At one time or another, I was close to having some of them happen, and looking back it seems like blind luck that I emerged unscathed.
As I was active in my addiction, I could reason that I was not an alcoholic because I haven't had any of these things happen. Alcoholics get arrested for driving drunk, alcoholics lose jobs and alcoholics crash their cars. I didn't do those things. This is the stigma in action. It was not someone else stigmatizing my addiction, but me, doing it on my own. The way we as a society look at addicts was my way of hiding my own addiction. After I entered into recovery, the idea of what others would think kept me quiet. Maybe people could figure it out, but I wasn't talking. It took almost four years before I felt like I should share my story and I still wasn't sure that my story was worth telling. Would my non-tragic past be enough to have an impact on anyone? Others have these incredible stories of addiction and recovery and mine couldn't possibly measure up.
Those feelings started to change in the fall of 2014. I was exposed to some people who are quite public about their own recovery, and seeing the powerful effect their stories had on myself as well as others pushed me to want to speak up. The first thing that spurred this change was reading a book called Running Ransom Road, by Caleb Daniloff. Caleb talks about his own addiction and recovery. Every few pages there would be some thought or story that would resonate with me. I started to think, 'if his experiences are similar to mine, if they cause me to think that I'm not the only one, maybe I should tell mine.' I mean, he wrote a book, and here I am thinking, "Wow! I felt that way too!"
Right around this same time, I became involved with The Herren Project. Seeing the way Chris Herren and others involved with the foundation are so public about their journey was the final push. Chris' message of "just being yourself because that is good enough," made me realize that I had a story worth telling. So, in spite of the fear of opening up, and knowing I had a group or supportive friends and family who deserved to hear it, I spoke out. I wrote a blog and it was published on the Internet. With the click of a button I instantly went from silently anonymous to a voice for recovery. It turns out the story I wasn't sure would resonate with others spoke directly to them. It just needed to be told. Putting it out there was empowering. I was not living in my addiction's shadow, and I was living in my story's light. I don't regret not speaking out earlier, I wasn't ready, but now I am and I am very proud that I am not anonymous.