It's difficult to explain the double life I lived in active addiction. As a single mom, risk-taking entrepreneur, writer and a person involved in ministry at my church, I struggled with the fact that I even had a problem.
I was a mom…and a good one.
I was extreme. Ballsy.
I had scrapped my way out of the food stamp line and ended up advising CEOs on business branding and marketing…all without a college degree.
It was a tough road but I had finally found a place where I felt accepted, important…necessary.
We all want to feel necessary, don’t we?
Yea, there might be a lot of pride going on in the above sentences, but there’s also a lot of pain. As a girl who was consistently told and shown that my life did not matter, it felt good to get to the point where I thought it actually did.
So, I was more than willing to live a complete lie and stuff down my need for help.
I was okay with being a person in hiding.
I had two DUI’s on my record and had served time in jail…but only a handful of people knew that. I simply changed my last name and moved on with my life, determined to protect whatever respect I thought I had.
I spent an entire decade in active addiction. I was a functioning alcoholic and opiate addict.
…and then the day came when it wasn’t okay anymore.
Reaching out for help seemed completely impossible. I kept tossing around the lies in my head.
“Everyone will reject you,” “You will lose everything,”
I was so sick that I thought asking for help was actually the trap. It was the evil plot to destroy my life. I imagined and played out the whole scenario…Here’s what will happen: I’ll make myself vulnerable. I’ll believe in people, and then, BOOM…I’ll be destroyed. They’ll turn their backs on me. I’ll be cut out like a cancer. Dismissed. I’ll lose my clients…my family will shun me…I’ll likely end up homeless.
Crazy, right? But it is what I believed. When I finally did reach out for help and agreed to check into a treatment center, I remember the conversation I had with my 23 year old son. It was one of those turning point moments that you know is going to effect the outcomes of everything else you do from there on out.
He said, “Mommy, you’ve got to stand in your own truth. You can’t give a crap about what people think about you. Let them think. Let them wonder. Let them talk. You have to decide to be exactly who you are, 100%…Flaws, dark corners…everything…You’ve got to own it or you’re never going to make it. You’ll just go back to the insanity of addiction again.”
That’s the thing about dark corners. Things left in darkness tend to fester and grow. I knew, somewhere deep down, that if I slipped away to a treatment facility, got help and then reinserted myself back into my life in hopes that I could put the past and my entire journey of addiction behind me, it would end up a complete train wreck.
So I decided…right then, in that one conversation, that I was going to be open about my journey.
And I was.
I already worked in web development and writing, so I was active on social media.
5,000 Facebook friends, 17k Twitter followers, 1,000 LinkedIn connections. Everyone was about to know the truth about me.
If I was going to be anything at all, one fact was certain, —I would no longer be a fraud.
I wrote a group email to all my clients while I was detoxing. It wasn’t the best way to let them know I was on my way to treatment, but it was the best I could do at the time, and at least I was operating in integrity and transparency.
I also created a pretty lengthy Facebook post while I was on the way to treatment. This was like a moment of truth for me. I read it to my sister who was driving me.
“Should I post it?”
“Do it! You’ll feel free.”
And I did.
Sounds crazy to make such a big deal about a Facebook post and an email, but it’s really the principle of all of it. I made a decision and started making steps toward transparency. Once it was out there…Once the email was sent and the post was out there, my journey of NOT being anonymous began.
So, how did it go? What was the response to my initial effort?
It was eye opening. It was almost a revelation of what people were made of. 99% of the people were wildly supportive. I got a lot of, “Wow, I would have never guessed you were an addict. You always seemed to be so put together.” It made me realize that the way I presented myself before was almost plastic. It was unrealistic, shallow. People saw me as an entrepreneur and a marketer who could help them with their business, but not with much else. Once I started chronicling my time in treatment, my therapy sessions and sharing my little “truth awakenings” (all on Facebook) I got a lot of people reaching out to me for help.
I had a wonderful realization through my journey. If I was real with the world…doors would open for people to be real with me.
Okay, so it wasn’t all sunshine and happiness. There was that other 1%. I did lose a couple clients. I had a few people block me on social media, two distant family members stopped talking to me altogether and a leader from my church messaged me privately pleading with me to stop broadcasting my recovery so openly on Facebook. He said it broke my anonymity.
That got me wondering about how many other people were confused about what the word anonymity really meant. This person seemed to think that I shouldn’t talk about myself or my own journey in recovery. He told me it would be detrimental to me.
Thankfully, I started researching online and ran into the movie, Anonymous People. That fueled my fire to be open. I also found the group, I Am Not Anonymous and connected to their mission statement immediately. Finally, I had found a group of people who felt like I did…”The world knows what addiction looks like. It’s time the world sees what recovery looks like.”
If I wasn’t open about my dark corners and shine the light on my journey through addiction and recovery, how would I ever be able to connect with or help anyone else? If I were to slink away to treatment and then silently reappear as a “fixed and shiny new human being” how would anyone else gain any wisdom from what I went through? Darkness is what held me captive for ten years…so it definitely seemed like insanity to me.
I’m thankful that it did, because today I’m open.
I guess I’m still a little ballsy. I like to surprise people.
I used to surprise them with my ability to help them professionally. I can market the hell out of a business…and I still do. But that’s not my true purpose.
Today I surprise people by being vulnerable, flawed, and transparent about my struggles…and I don’t regret one minute of it because the trade off is priceless.
The depth of my human connections and my ability to love others and be of service to the world is beyond what I ever thought possible.
…and I’m only just over one year sober.
I can’t wait to see what my tomorrows hold!