I now know that I went about telling my family I was in recovery from alcoholism in all the wrong ways.
No wonder they looked so baffled, confused and even a little angry.
How I wish I had known then about recovery messaging and the power of using the right words and ideas when it comes to speaking to my family, friends, employer and my community.
I thought everyone would be ecstatic that I was no longer drinking.
Turns out it wasn’t quite that simple. Had I made my story about all the good things that were happening as a result of entering recovery and stabilizing my life, instead of focusing on how I would no longer be a train wreck in others’ lives, people may have understood better.
The good news is it’s never too late to share the power of recovery
Does anybody besides the recovery community care about recovery, let alone how powerful it is? As a matter of fact, research by Faces & Voices of Recovery reports that yes, the public does care; in fact:
- A majority (67%) believe that there is a stigma toward people in recovery
- A majority (74%) say that attitudes & policies must change
People want to know about recovery! That second stat? That 74% want to see change in policies like access to treatment for people with addiction? I find that so damned exciting!
The thing to remember is there’s a right way and a not-so-helpful way for those of us in recovery to approach the telling our stories.
The not-so-helpful way is to focus on your addiction. In my case, it was me wrongly describing to anyone who would listen how I would no longer be an 80-mph train barreling through my loved ones’ lives. Or me constantly saying things like, “Oh you know, that’s what I did when I’d had 12 Bacardi and Cokes!”
The right way is to focus on the stability of recovery, on the great things that have happened in your life as a result of recovery.
So what does all this mean in the big scheme of things?
Let me back up for a second. When I talk about delivering a message, I’m talking about sharing your story with family, friends, neighbors, the person next to you on the train, your pew-mates at church, the person in line with you at the grocery store, and definitely, the media, if that’s something you’d like to do.
The message is shaped, of course, depending on your audience, but for the most part, it’s the same content.
Do people in recovery want others to know that people with addiction get well?
Again, referring to the Faces & Voices study, 88% of people in recovery believe it’s important for the public to see that thousands of people get well every year. That’s a pretty impressive number for a community that is supposedly anonymous, isn’t it?
Here’s something for you to wrap your mind around: You’re not telling your story for you.
Even when you’re having a one-on-one conversation with your next door neighbor, you’re representing the recovery movement. The chat you have may very well change the thinking and impact the actions of another person attached to your neighbor.
I’ll leave you with this: Five years ago, with 18 years of recovery, I embarked on an odyssey that changed everything about my life except my recovery. All the bold and scary-as-hell steps I’ve taken since late 2009 brought me to an understanding that I must participate in the New Recovery Advocacy Movement.
You see, it’s because of recovery that I participate in recovery. And now my life is all about living the dream so that maybe, just maybe, someone else can too.
Photo courtesy of cohdra