Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others.-Unknown-
Shame bound my existence like a strait jacket when my family was deep in the disease of substance use disorder.
So many circumstances and happenings made me want to hide. My son, JP, was in a struggle for his life because of the illness of addiction. And with him the rest of our family faced the challenges inherent in addiction because it is a disease of the family system.
But unlike other diseases that engender understanding and compassion from others, addiction can set up a perfect storm of judgement and criticism. Many still view it as a moral failing, sin or matter of self-control. They don’t understand the causes, symptoms, and progression of the disease.
Before the miracle of recovery took hold in my son’s life, I would deliberately avoid talking to certain people for fear that they would make some remark or ask some question about what they heard was going on in my family.
My daughters would tell me about comments made to them about their brother, who they deeply loved.
Some who made remarks, passed judgment, or asked a lot of questions were random acquaintances. But some – and this hurt the most – were members of our extended family.
All in all, they just had no clue about the difficult symptoms of the illness of addiction in a loved one and their family. But their attitudes made what was already the challenge of a lifetime even worse.
The gift of my son’s recovery more than a decade ago began a healing process in my own life. A key part of that healing was in being able to unbind myself from the strait jacket of shame. That healing changed the trajectory of my life.
I began to see the importance of speaking about the true nature of addiction as a family systems illness. I began to feel a calling to share our family’s story of recovery and hope with others so they too could find a recovery solution. This was a 180 from where I had been for many years.
By then JP had co-founded a recovery health care system to help others as he had been helped. We co-authored our book, Unchained: Our Addiction Mess Is Our Message to share our message of hope.
I came to realize that fighting back against the shame of the stigma of addiction not only freed me but helped free others, too.
Together we are all stronger. Silent no longer. There is always hope for recovery.
How do you fight back against the stigma of a substance use disorder?
How can your family’s story help others?
Please share here. We can all be inspired by our collective experience, strength and hope.
Nancy and her son, JP, are co-authors of Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message. Their book tells the true story of JP’s descent into opioid and alcohol addiction, homelessness, and violence to recovery to become co-founder of a treatment health care system.