We’re all talking about how nonaddicts stigmatize those of us with the disease of addiction, but more concerning to me is the way we, who suffer from the same disease, stigmatize and judge each other for traveling a different road to recovery. How did we get so righteous and indignant?

Why are we not overjoyed when a desperate sick and suffering human being stops using dirty needles, stealing from their kid’s piggy banks, or any other insane act in order to get money to get high just one more time. How can we possibly say we’re in recovery working the program, but in the same breath tell another addict they’re not really clean because they’re on Suboxone, Methadone or whatever maintenance drug they need to not do the low down, grimy shit they were doing the day before to try and recapture that 1st high.

Where is the empathy and compassion people need at this fragile time in their life? People in N.A., which I love┬ábecause that’s where I learned there was a way out of that madness, say I’m not in recovery and can’t take on a commitment if I’m on MAT’s, or chair a meeting. Bill W. said some place in a letter before he died I think, and this is not a quote, but his hopes were for A.A. to evolve alongside modern medicine and science. I’m clean and in recovery and I take Suboxone and I’m fuckin proud of it.

I used to be one of those rigid nazi’s for many years who thought abstinence is the ONLY way, but God decided to show me where I was mistaken. There are people that have double digit years of abstinence and that’s all it is. They wouldn’t know a step if they tripped over it. They’re miserable and hateful, but like to tell me I’m not in recovery or can’t be part of their elite club because I take a prescribed medicine from my Dr. So be it. Say what you will. I know what I am!

I have a sponsor in A.A. an oldtimer, historian who has taken me through the 12 steps and no one nowhere is going to tell me I’m not really clean! So if you’re not robbing your mother and collapsing every vein in your body for one more shot of pure, uncut misery, Congratulations! Welcome to recovery! Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not really clean or you have to do it their way. You just keep rockin it any way you can, and I pray you find your path to never ending recovery. For now, just don’t use for 1 day, and try to be a little better person than you were yesterday. I promise you will find your way to a life second to none.

Author: Carla Marotto

9 comments on “Rockin Recovery On My Own Terms”

  1. I totally resonate with what you say. The 12 steps are a great model for anyone wanting to grow out of pain, but anyone who finds themselves free from their addiction, regardless of the path that brought them there, should be so proud. Thank you for sharing this message.

  2. I completely agree, but would also like to add one really vital piece about breaking the stigma, and that is changing the stigmatizing language we use- and much of this language comes from those abstinence only programs who tend to demonize MAT and who obviously demonized the active user. Words like “clean” carry such a stigma because it insinuates those using are “dirty,” or less worthy. Even the word “addict” has so much negative connotation and comes with the preconceived notion of a back alley character. I prefer to be more pragmatic in my approach, using terminology with undeniable positivity. “Free from illicit substances” is so much better than “clean.” And in public health, we strive to use person first language. We are not “addict’s,” but we are people (first!!) with a substance misuse disorder. Even “substance abuse” is frowned upon in public health, as misuse does not hold the same negative weight as “abuse.” Sadly, old timers and many in these groups hold tight to this language, defending that it is not meant that way. Even so- that is the way the rest of the world sees it and it holds us all back. The best way we can all work to change the stigma is to change our language around it and help educate others about this fact. I once used the word “junkie,” wearing it almost as a badge of honor. I did not understand the problems it caused, the stigma. It is not easy to change these words we have used for years, this “secret language of those initiated into rec

  3. I totally agree with your sentiments here, and sadly, much of the stigmatization of addiction comes directly from those in recovery. So many do not realize how much language matters! The language we use to describe drug use and addiction is loaded with stigma and negative connotation. Take the word “clean” for example. By considering ourselves “clean” when we are abstinent from all mind-altering drugs, or not illicit substances, the word still insinuates that those still using, or even those on MAT, are “dirty,” and essentially “lesser than” the rest of us, and people as a whole. I prefer to be more pragmatic, by uainf the term “free of,” we suggest peace or growth or even renewal. Free from illicit substances, opiate free, free from all harmful drug use- whatever the case is- it is more pragmatic. The term “addict” itself has such a negative connotation, and to cling to this as our identity is so limiting for some. Sure, it helps some, but not others. To demand this of all participants just doesn’t help the stigma at all. In the public health field, we use person first language- the person is always first. We don’t call a person with cancer a cancer, and we should call one another PEOPLE with a substance misuse disorder. Misuse rather than abuse, because abuse just has such a negative connotation. Sadly, people in recovery are often the ones to most adamantly demand that we continue to use this language, arguing that the intended meaning is not stigmatizing, and how so many of these stigmatizing statements are well known within our recovery circles….but that doesn’t make these words any less harmful. Yes- we all know what these words and phrases are meant to signify, but it is how others not personally touched by drug use see these words that creates the stigma. When we remind one another out loud- “Once an addict, always an addict,” we know it is meant to remind us to be vigilant, but to a potential boss it may mean that if we once lie, stole, and cheated- we still will. We need to also focus on breaking down the stigma at the level of the drug user- because this is where it starts and it continues into recovery. And reframing our language around this is one of the best and most effective ways each and every one of us can help to end the stigma.

  4. Oh, I know what you mean. I too was one that thought the people on methadone were not doing it “right”. That they had a “crutch” to get by on. Now I’M dealing with the same attitudes I once held. But I’d not give up methadone.No way,no how. It works for for me and that’s all I really care about in the end.

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