Talking about addiction recovery
Ever wonder how far to go when talking about addiction recovery to a “normie”? Perhaps you’re wondering about your own personal role and finding your voice in recovery. And while many of us have explored the line between advocacy and privacy, what can happen if you really put yourself ALL OUT THERE?
Today, we speak with Anna David about talking. Talking about recovery. Talking about addiction. Talking about past or present issues. In this Q&A, we explore what you can do when talking about recovery from addiction. She talks with us about barriers that block us from being open to the colleagues, peers, or acquaintances…and how we can put these into context. And Anna would know.
Anna David is increasingly focused on addiction and recovery and has been touring as a college speaker on the topic since 2012. She was Editor of the addiction and recovery site “The Fix” for over two years. She’s the Editor-In-Chief of “AfterPartyMagazine“, where she writes about addiction recovery in its many flavors and runs a popular podcast. Anna also writes for The New York Times, The LA Times, Details, Cosmo, Playboy, People and Huff Post. Now we have her here, speaking of de-stigmatizing addiction AND offering ways of how we can express our own feelings, thoughts, and the ups and downs of our deepest, innermost processes.
You can relate (or shout back) at use through the comments section at the bottom of the page. We try to respond to all real comments with a personal response.
ADDICTION BLOG: Hi, Anna! Firstly, what’s your position on a recovering person’s personal anonymity vs. their obligation for advocacy? Does our role as people in long term recovery from addiction who can help de-stigmatize addiction trump our own personal unease with privacy issues?
ANNA DAVID: As far as I’m concerned, there’s no issue whatsoever about people talking about being in recovery.
It’s a complicated issue when 12-step is brought into it since there’s this very active angry anti-A.A. brigade, a group of people who seem to be extremely uninformed about 12 step but tear it apart with every fiber of their being. It is uncomfortable for those of us who know our lives were saved by 12 step to listen to (or read) their vitriolic and ignorant responses. A.A. cannot defend itself and I think those of us who talk about the ways it has saved our lives while making it clear that we are in no way spokespeople for A.A. can help temper the insanity of the critics.
ADDICTION BLOG: What about celebrities? Does/Should obligation to the cause over rule the right to personal space?
ANNA DAVID: No one should feel obligated to share about their addiction or recovery. And people who don’t feel comfortable shouldn’t feel guilt or shame about not doing it.
ADDICTION BLOG: What do you think is the most pressing issue at the moment in the relationship between the recovery community and the therapeutic community?
ANNA DAVID: The medical community and some of the therapeutic community are often wholly ignorant about addiction and recovery. At some medical schools, addiction is covered as a sort of lecture or elective and there are doctors out there doing serious harm to addicts because of their ignorance.
There’s a built in problem, though, which is that it’s very hard – some might say impossible – for someone who has not been addicted and found their way to sobriety to understand what it’s like. There are exceptions to this but it’s a challenge, no matter how many medical schools increase their programs to focus on addiction.
ADDICTION BLOG: How did you “find your voice” in addiction recovery? What would you advise someone new to recovery to do (or not do) to explore their own voices?
ANNA DAVID: I can only speak to the 12 step experience because that’s how I got and stay sober. So for me, it happened in those rooms naturally. I heard things I related to in meetings and at a certain point, discovered they were a part of my vernacular. Most of the wisest things I say I heard in meetings. I even take credit for them sometimes.
ADDICTION BLOG: Do you suggest that openness is right for everyone? How might someone who feels less comfortable talking about recovery start to do so among their colleagues, peers, or acquaintances?
ANNA DAVID: I know many people who aren’t comfortable talking about their recovery with colleagues and acquaintances. I think, unless not talking about it makes it into an issue – someone is pressing them on why they don’t drink and they feel like they have to keep making up excuses – they should do whatever they please.
ADDICTION BLOG: How do you think that keeping recovery a secret can affect our relationship with the larger world around us?
ANNA DAVID: I don’t look at people who don’t talk about it as people who are keeping it a secret. I have things in my personal life that I don’t talk to acquaintances about because I’m not comfortable with them knowing these things and it’s none of their business.
But I believe that people who are comfortable being open about recovery are absolutely helping de-stigmatize addiction and recovery and allowing addicts who are still struggling the opportunity to hear about how their lives can change.
ADDICTION BLOG: Do you have any “no go” zones in terms of what you speak about publicly?
ANNA DAVID: I have personal issues that I won’t talk about (as I just wrote) and I actually have some regrets about those things I have been open about, either in interviews or in my books…things that I wasn’t self-conscious about at the time but I am, for whatever reason, now. I am now very conscious of what I will and won’t share and I think that’s important for everyone.
ADDICTION BLOG: How does (nearly) total honesty and openness affect your relationships with others? For example, do you have to preface conversations or experiences with a phrase like, “I might share this with others later…continue at your own risk.”
ANNA DAVID: I don’t really share what people tell me with other people though I did write two novels and a memoir with several characters in there that were amalgamations of real people I knew. At least a few had issues with that so I learned to always give people pages that they may have a problem with pre-publication.
ADDICTION BLOG: What has been your biggest regret in following a path of livelihood in talking openly about alcoholism or addiction?
ANNA DAVID: I sometimes feel uncomfortable when people ask me about things I willingly shared; it’s so unfair to them but hey, I’m working on it. I sometimes worry that people in the recovery community judge me for my openness but I have to say that no one says that to me and I usually hear the opposite.
I sometimes worry I’ll burn out on the topic. I’ve mined so much of my life for material I sometimes wonder if I’ve shared too much.
ADDICTION BLOG: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
ANNA DAVID: Nope. Great questions!