I wanted this post to be a kind of second beginning, because I’ve been gone from the blog for so long. I started out writing my experience as prescription-drug addict, but you can read that at Opiate Detox Recovery (on my first thread and my second thread). What I really want to talk about is what this blog will be about.
I want this blog to be a place where addicts of all stripes—not just people like me, who became addicted to pain drugs through legitimate pain treatment, but also people who drink their pain away (like my father), people who can’t stop smoking nicotine because they feel like they’ll go nuts (like my mother), people who can’t stop copping heroin or crack or meth, or eating, or gambling, or having sex, because it makes them “feel” some way that they can’t feel otherwise—a place where these people can come to learn and talk about addiction.
I’ve been reading the daily news about addiction and alcoholism for the past few months. Addiction permeates our society. Today’s news (you’ll totally NEVER believe this): junk food is actually addictive!—who knew?? And the media are so much more keyed into this “discovery” than they are about the scores of people who die each year because of drug-addiction. I’m not just talking about heroin addicts under bridges, which is the image everyone thinks about when they hear the word “addict.” I’m talking about the half-million Americans who die EVERY YEAR because of lung cancer caused by smoking. Every two years, we lose a million Americans to nicotine-addiction-induced lung cancer. That doesn’t count the ones who die from emphysema and other lung disease caused by smoking.
Add to that the number of people who die of two common results of food addiction—diabetes (7th leading cause of death in America) and obesity (112,000 Americans per year)—and the idea that addiction permeates our society is easy to understand.
So few people understand addiction. The press about addiction, however well-intentioned, is often rife with errors, usually because journalists don’t talk to addicts who have the experience to speak with authority.
And they don’t talk to addicts because addicts are afraid to come out of the closet. An enormous stigma persists about addiction.
The word “stigma” is a Greek word for a wound or brand inflicted by a pointed instrument. It’s related to the word stick. “Sticks and stone may break my bones…” Every six-year-old knows what bullshit that old saying is. There are some names that can hurt. “Addict” is a name that can get you talked about, divorced, sacked, and generally shunned by society.
The name “Guinevere” is not my real name. It’s the name that I chose as my byline when I started writing on Opiate Detox Recovery 18 months ago. I was newly in detox, wondering if I’d done permanent damage to my body and mind, fearful that the pain that had incapacitated me six years before would come back.
It turned out that the pain didn’t come back, and I didn’t do permanent damage with the drugs. Today I cycle 50 miles per week, take care of an extensive garden, and clean a big house. My 16-year-old marriage has thrived since I got off drugs, and I’m a much better mother to my 12-year-old kid.
I wish I could write about my addiction under my real name. But for now that seems like a bad idea. But my hope is that one day society will see that addiction is an illness like other illnesses that we contract through a combination of genetics and behavior.
My experience is, talking openly about our experiences helps us and other people.
If you could talk openly about your addiction… would you? What would it take for you to be able to do it without fear?