Thursday, May 23, 2013


Yesterday I received an email that pretty much changed my entire outlook on life, recovery, and most importantly addictions. The email opened with this statement:
"I have come to believe that no one passes through our society unscathed, and virtually everyone has (extremely few can honestly say "had") their addictions-which they commonly pass off as just "habits", or if they're really brave (read that with compassionate sarcasm) they might admit that they have a few "bad habits". We mistakenly tend to reserve the word "addiction" to stigmatize those who turn and run to substances instead of turning and running to the TV, dependent romantic relationships, shopping, sex, work, cleaning, exercise, food, facebook... you name it. 

  But I think we're all somewhere on the same spectrum, and we just differ in 
 (1) the specific coping/escaping mechanisms we happened to choose; 
(2) in our levels and thresholds of suffering/guilt/stress/anxiety/boredom; and 
(3) in our levels of honesty and openness (with ourselves and others) about growing up as a human being in very lost cultures (and for many growing up in very broken families and communities)." 

A few weeks ago when I guest spoke at my old treatment center one of the patients asked if I considered myself an alcoholic. Although I often speak of my alcohol abuse, I still could not answer yes to this question out of shame or fear, maybe both. When the Libero Network editor asked me to join their team, she gave me the title of "Eating Disorder and Addiction Writer," but I still could not admit to myself that I was an addict. 

Addiction has become this awful, shameful thing in today's society; like the quote says above, "we mistakenly tend to reserve the word "addiction" to stigmatize those who turn and run to substances." There was no way I was going to allow myself to fall victim to that stereotype. I was never a drunk living on the streets or drinking out of a brown paper bag, so I must not really be an alcoholic - or at least that's what I told myself.  

The second part of the quote talks about the different levels of the addiction spectrum. I had never thought of addictions in this manor, but it makes perfect sense. Over the course of my life my addictions have changed - from different eating disordered behaviors to dependent relationships to drinking - but they have all served the same purpose. Depending on what negative emotion I was feeling, my addiction of choice would be there to help me avoid or numb out the pain. Only by facing my fears and anxieties through recovery, I have finally begun to tear down some of those walls. 

So maybe I am an addict, but that does not mean those addictions need to run my life anymore. 
Maybe I am an alcoholic, but I am also 381 days sober. 

We live in a society that teaches us to be ashamed of our mistakes and puts us down for our faults, but honestly, I'm getting pretty sick of it. I'm sick of the stigma. The stigma keeps many of us stuck in our illnesses and addictions. 
Receiving this email has been a turning point in my recovery. I can finally admit to myself that, "I am an alcoholic," and not feel like the most horrible person on earth. This person also shared some of their own personal addictions with me in this email and expressed their own embarrassment regarding these issues, but I do not think there is anything for this individual to be embarrassed about. At all.
Maybe I don't need to feel embarrassed about my addictions either.



  1. Such an interesting post, Kelsi.

    There is freedom, hope and healing in openness. What we hide might continue to destroy us, while honesty makes change possible.

    You are amazing, dear one.

    - Hedda.

  2. Spot on, Kelsi. You've talked before about alcohol abuse being harder to admit to than having an eating disorder, and even some parts of your eating disorder harder to talk about than others...all part of the bizarro hierarchies of shame in society.

    I do feel as if though eating disorders, while they have their own stigmas, get quite a bit more sympathy than those recovering from alcohol addictions, and those recovering from illegal substances get treated even worse probably. I think the same happens with other disorders - people are a lot more okay with those who admit to having depression/anxiety disorders than something like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

    I think we all never want to be *that* person with mental illness/addiction, but when we try to draw those lines, we do both ourselves and the othered groups a great disservice.

    BTW, congrats on 381 days sober :) I've not experienced problems with alcohol, but I think when quitting any addiction the first year is the most difficult and crucial to staying in recovery, and you've well surpassed that!

    1. I love the phrase "bizarro hierarchies of shame in society." I could not have said it better myself. I'm not sure when the whole idea of one mental health disorder being "better" than another was developed, but it sure is frustrating, so thank you for agreeing with me. :)

  3. When we are obsessed about something to neglect life, we are addicts. That something can be anything. I am an addict. If it is not my self-image, I look for something else to focus on. Anything so that I don't have to look at the reality and I don't have to acknowledge my nasty feelings coming through it.

    It is hard to accept that we have issues that we feel shamed on, but you already have accepted it. I could not say that I was anorexia for a while, but now I can (in the limited world... not everywhere...). And, you know? We don't have to say it to everybody. What counts the most is that we know that we are, and we work on our recovery. Compassion towards ourselves, because who can love us more than ourselves? The time will come, because they always do. Lots of love... xoxo

    1. Yes, I think what you said about not having to tell everyone is so true. Being honest with myself is, for me at least, the most important part of recovery because if I cannot tell myself the truth, then I certainly cannot be honest with others. Thanks for your words of wisdom, as always! <3

  4. Admitting to one's self that he has a problem or addiction is a good start because it only means that the person knows that there is something wrong, and that he wants to correct it. Alcohol and drug addiction have negative effects that can lead to complications. It's best to treat the addiction early on before it worsens. _Leora @ _