Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Yes I’m An Addict and Proud of It!
I been asked many times why I would ‘out’ myself and tell people that I’m a recovering addict. No one would ever know by looking at me, that I’m one. Unless you’re in the end stages of addiction, we addicts look pretty much like everyone else. Maybe that’s part of the problem. When you hear the word disease, you think of really sick people. People who look sick. But before addiction shows on the body, it shows in the way you think, feel and behave. Addiction is a behavioral defense system that keeps other people out. These behaviors include minimizing, justifying, rationalizing, deflecting, avoiding, dishonesty, self-pity and blame. People who aren’t addicted and drink too much or smoke weed or try heroin, would hate the feeling. They’d feel sick and out of control. But those of us who are addicts love the feeling. We feel happy and in control when we use. And then we build a lifestyle around it. Everything else after that, comes in second. I recently met with a woman who was horrified to hear I didn’t drink. She didn’t tell me that, but her facial expressions did. I never told her I didn’t use cocaine or any other mood altering substance either, too much information. Right? As it was, she was clearly shocked. Her eyes grew big and round as she looked at me and said, “You mean you can never drink again?” Before I had the chance to reply she broke in and said, “Not even at Christmas?” I never told this woman I could drink, I just choose not to. It’s hard educating people. Where do you start? Had she known me in my addiction and saw what my family and friends did, she’d be high-fiving me, not looking at me with shock. I get it. I don’t look like what you’d expect. I look healthy. And I am, sort of. But my good health doesn’t come naturally, it comes with work. As a recovering addict I need to have balance, boundaries and people to run my crazy thoughts by. Even at 18 years clean and sober, I am not cured… Thank God!! You might wonder why I’d be happy about that. It comes down to this; as long as I think of myself as recovering, I’ll do the work. I truly appreciate the tools I’ve picked up in recovery. I don’t avoid hard conversations. I quit running away. I try hard not to judge others. I have realistic expectations. I’m fair and I’ll never ask someone else to do more than I’m doing. When I make mistakes, I admit it. I don’t play the victim. I don’t break hearts or cheat and steal. I have empathy and I remember the last time I picked up. There was nothing fun about it. I’m lucky enough to know that if I use again, I don’t start back at the fun times either, I start back at the end and go forward. Forward from where I was – is dead. If I think I’m cured, I’ll stop doing the work. Why wouldn’t I? I’m cured. Right? Because addiction isn’t really about substance, it’s easy to relapse. Ask anyone going back into the rooms. It never starts with a drink or drug in hand. It starts with having unrealistic expectations of self and/or others, and feeling hurt, but not expressing it. Hidden hurt grows into obsession which becomes resentment and eventually, self-pity. That’s when it really takes off. Resentment and self-pity is a toxic witch’s cauldron – a bubbling poisonous brew – waiting for the right time and place in which to culminate… a relapse. Without this illness I wouldn’t be living the quality of life I am today. On my own, I would never have sought the help I received. I wouldn’t be helping others to recover from addiction. I’d be building another’s dream, instead of my own. It’s easier to go to work for someone else and stay miserably safe with a steady paycheque coming in. Complaining is so much easier than doing. Trouble is, it leaves you feeling victimized and unhappy. There are many ‘normal’ folks who don’t struggle with addiction that lead so-so lives. They have jobs, and families and money in the bank. For the most part, they’re content. They stay within the safety of those parameters, never stepping beyond them. But those of us in recovery, dare to step. We’ve fought a life and death battle and came through it wiser, and shinier, than we were before. We have faith, support and endurance. But more importantly, we have passion. So why do I ‘out’ myself? Because I’m a recovering addict and proud of it. It’s time we end the stigma on addiction. There are millions of recovering addicts around the world. When I share my story, it inspires others to do the same. I hope in reading this, you’ll share yours. You never know. Your story might just save someone’s life. The news is filled with grim reports of addicts overdosing. It may seem like addiction is winning this war. But that’s not true. Sadly, deaths get media attention. But what about life? Every day people are seeking help and getting clean and sober. It’s time to even the odds. Speak up, and reach out. Many recovering addicts are living extraordinary lives. The lie really is dead. The truth is, we do recover! If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 888-601-8693.