I almost hate to put the anniversary of 9/11/01 beside National Recovery Month, but everything seems to connect somehow to that fateful day, getting real and honest about the impact of it, and getting real and honest about how we cope or can’t cope is what connects us to recovery.
Today, in the year 2001, everything changed. I can only speak for me, but as inherently fearful and geared toward sadness as I was before 9/11, the volume of my fear and sadness resounded at a higher decibel and with more frequency.
It still does, but I work very hard to locate a peaceful and serene volume and that happens almost solely by working with and helping others.
I am currently in my 19th year of sobriety, but up until this year, I had absolutely no idea there was a, National Recovery Month.
I researched the National Recovery Month website for quite some time and found what appears to be a mission statement, though I don’t think they call it that –
Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.
Me likey. Good statement. I wonder how many people are recovering (or feel they’ll never recover) from the PTSD which may or may not have resulted in substance/alcohol abuse, eating disorders, etc. as a result of the events and aftermath of 9/11/01.
I initially learned about National Recovery Month on Facebook. When September began, I noticed many of my friends posting their sobriety and/or clean dates, and to my surprise, I posted my own sobriety date on Facebook yesterday. I don’t usually post this information openly on social media, but I have, like so many of us, found myself deflated and discouraged by the stigma that accompanies addiction, alcoholism, anorexia, anxiety, bulimia, depression, OCD, OCPD, PTSD and all other mental illnesses/disorders. The list in its entirety is very long, but deserves to be examined and embraced in my humble opinion.
Naturally, this whole recovery “month of acknowledgment and celebration,” really got me thinking and me thinking isn’t always a good thing, but it isn’t always a bad thing either.
As the “committee” in my head met to discuss a bunch of stuff, it occurred to me that three years ago yesterday , I had “the BIG biopsy,” which I learned a few days later, was cancer. So, post biopsy, I had the most beautiful culinary experience of my life, at Grace Restaurant in Chicago, with people who are very dear to me. When the sommelier approached our table, it became clear that our thoughtful host of this dinner had called ahead to inform them I didn’t drink. I was really touched by his consideration, felt slightly alienated and a bit naked (not in a fun way), and I remember being in a lot of pain from my biopsy which was deep and wide enough to require stitches, but I was alive, eating an expensive dinner, and I was sober. I remember sitting at that table and thinking, “No matter the result, I will maintain grace, which is the name of this beautiful restaurant.”
A few days later, I got the call that the biopsy came back and was melanoma. Cancer, but hardly a tragedy.
I can’t think of a time when the idea of cancer, or the cancer itself ever got me close to drinking. It didn’t. In a way, after I was diagnosed and throughout the ordeal, it was one of the happier, more peaceful times of my life. People were all around me. It was a real love-fest and I was deeply appreciative for every kindness and casserole that was given to me.
The most challenging issue I’ve endured wasn’t and isn’t cancer. Not even close. It isn’t alcoholism or an eating disorder. I believe the most challenging issues for me have been the shame, the overcompensation of trying to hide my struggles, the fear of not being loved once someone really knows me and the exhaustion level that working hard not to publicly struggle, causes. Of course, over the years, many people have grown to know me well and love me despite my defects, but I can’t help but believe that we, as recovering human beings or even “normal” human beings, struggle to simply be okay with where we’re at, who we are, and what we have to deal with. Part of what we have to deal with is tragedy and grief. I don’t think one has to be in recovery to suffer from “terminal uniqueness,” and/or simply feeling alone. It can be a really shitty place to be and the exit sign can be virtually impossible to locate while in that state of being.
It’s pretty automatic for me to feel embarrassed to bring up anything today because nothing is more important than what happened 15 years ago in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. I’m going to bring it up anyway.
A few days ago, I lost an extremely exciting business opportunity due to the subjects on this blog and my progressive political leanings. While my business contact for the lost project has enjoyed my voice, loves my writing and diligently reads my blog, he and the committee at the top, (the ones who make decisions), became very uncomfortable with some of my blog posts. “It’s all just too real and you talk about sex and other inappropriate subjects. You are also too political and the wrong political…” He said other things after that, but it’s all sort of a blur. My mouth was agape for most of our phone conversation and especially the “wrong political” part.
I was pretty crushed to lose this opportunity which I’d been “booked” on for months. It could have been a game-changer for me and my career path. I never once thought of drinking. I did spend a few minutes feeling badly and ashamed about expressing myself so openly in this blog, especially because I don’t know if anything will ever come of it. Then it hit me – so much has already come from my writing of this blog. My intention is to help others and within that action, I find myself healing. I am grateful that I am open to, accepting of and fully committed to love people of all types in this Universe, and even accepting of myself once in a while. Perhaps if fearful and/or depressed people read these posts, they can be less afraid and more accepting of themselves. Maybe they’ll start to feel comfortable admitting that they struggle with tiny hills that feel like gigantic mountains. Maybe they’ll even ask for help.
Through my experience, I received more food than I could eat while I was dealing with the cancer thing. While dealing with major depression, however, there were no casseroles to be eaten. In my opinion, stigma is alive and well when there is no casserole or love-fest to help heal wounds as deadly as cancer is when it progresses.
So. If you feel depressed, or like you want to drink yourself to death, or like you want to try heroin, or like you’re alone in this world, or that no one will ever understand and it will never get better, please don’t hesitate to contact me or someone who knows that there is nothing to be ashamed of and that you are not alone. We are here for you.
It would be a tragedy to lose you. It would be as tragic as any tragedy.
I have surrounded myself with many recovering individuals, and I believe without a shred of doubt, the extra work we all have to practice in our daily lives is a blessing and not a curse.
The real curse is stigma and the secretive silence of fear that accompanies stigma. So, here I am, writing about all of this stuff, taking the risk and exposing my under belly in hopes that other individuals; those who have been through enormous trauma and tragedy and those who have not, can walk together with mutual understanding and respect. Taking the time and space to love, respect, and accept each other is what I believe can heal all tragedies. It can also abolish stigma.
We all deserve it. All of us, together.