This is how the story of a powerful, educated, intelligent, ambitious, and loved woman, nearly died, begins. This is the true beginning of a five-year cycle of abuse that left me broken, scared, and terrified of how to even live life.
THE SOUND OF SILENCE
This is my story. And we might hear similar stories in 12-step rooms. But, there are millions of women who have no interest in attending a 12-step meeting. They don’t want to be told they are powerless and inherently selfish. They don’t want to take an inventory of all their faults and defects. And they certainly don’t want to say: “I am an addict” because the truth, as my friend Holly Whitaker says, is that addiction is an experience, not an identity.
We don’t think of the vice president of sales of a major brand as an addict and we don’t want to look at them in that way either. We all know there is a stigma attached to addiction. And professional, well-educated women with families and careers, well they want nothing to do with that stereotype, and I get it. Because, the stereotype is false, and it’s no longer our story.
Our story is that we had no idea that the drugs the doctors were prescribing to us would cause us to become addicted. We had no idea that interventions and rearrangements would be made in our name. That we would have to leave our jobs and our families in order to receive the help we need. We didn’t plan for this. And the plan for saving us is fucked up and flawed. It really is.
Today, I vow to talk about this more. I vow to tell my story so you can tell yours. When you Google my name, you are taken to a number of different articles, and publications, and videos, and social media posts about my addiction and my sobriety. You’ll find my blog – which goes into intimate detail about my addiction. Or you will find an article I wrote for the Huffington Post called “Don’t Call Me An Addict: I Don’t Live There Anymore.” In searching further, you will be taken to YouTube videos of me, discussing my addiction and my sobriety, and choosing to use my voice, because I choose helping others over enabling my ego.
In being public about my addiction, I have given up the opportunity to land many professional jobs. This is the simple truth. I have released control of how the men who search my name on online dating sites feel about me and why they let me go because they don’t want to date a woman who has been addicted. My name, according to Google, is no longer associated with my MBA, or my career, or even my address on Spokeo – my name is associated with addiction and recovery. And to be honest, I couldn’t be more proud.
TELL THE TRUTH
I have chosen this life. I have chosen this life because we are far more than what is currently represented. We are magic-makers and light workers, and we are mothers, and daughters, and sisters, and teachers. We are nurses and business development managers and founders, and we are lovers. We are your neighbor. We are every woman you’ve ever known. This is us. This is our story.
We are not our labels. Our recovery should empower us. And we should know that when we tell our stories, the whole world heals. But, we are told we can’t tell our stories. That we shouldn’t tell our stories. We don’t say we are in recovery on our social media pages. If we post any truth about our struggles, our sisters and our friends call us and ask if we are sure we want to talk about “that.” Because “that?” No, We are not supposed to talk about that.
This is the sound of silence and it is KILLING us. The negative effects of drugs strike women harder and faster than men. They do more damage to our bodies and they eat away at our insides far quicker than they do in men. Women are more likely to be prescribed painkillers and for a much longer period of time. According to an article written in The Huffington Post, women are 50 percent more likely than men to leave their doctor’s office with a prescription, even if they have the same condition.
In the addiction treatment world, it is well known that women are slower to get help and ask for help. The top reason women are deferred from treatment is because of shame and stigma. Women are expected to be mothers to their children and they are told to never leave their jobs or their families. They are in constant fear of admitting their problem. We are told “good” women don’t get addicted.
But that’s not the truth. Nothing can change the truth. The truth is the truth.
I know there are women who are hurting. They are alone and they are in constant fear of admitting they have a problem. We are told the truth sets us free and then we are told, but darling, there are some truths we just don’t talk about.
There is a lot, in this current world, that is fucked up and flawed. There is stigma and there is shame and there are societal expectations that minimize women and tell us to stay small. I won’t stay small. And I won’t stay quiet. The sound of silence is killing us. And I’m going to keep talking. Until it ends. Or until I end.
“But, I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is…to tell the truth.”
― Howard Zinn