HI, MY NAME IS SHANNON, AND I AM AN ADDICT AND AN ALCOHOLIC.
Actually, this is how I prefer to share my recovery story:
Hi, my name is Shannon, and I was an alcoholic and addict for nearly fifteen years of my life. Today, I am celebrating many years in long-term recovery, and I'm not just sober, but I'm happy, healthy, and thriving both professionally and personally.
I've been able to transform my life from an experience of shame and darkness to one filled with light, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. I've come a long way considering that in 2011 I woke up in a jail cell (for the fourth time in my life) with a horrific hangover, still slightly intoxicated, and refusing to believe that I had an addiction problem.
But for me, the process of eliminating shame from my life wasn't easy. Even after two years in recovery, only a handful of close family members really knew the extent of my addiction, that it was once so debilitating I couldn't go a few minutes without a drink in my system or I'd be in extreme mental, physical, and emotional pain.
Very few people knew that when I got drunk and high for the first time at age of seventeen, I was immediately hooked. They didn't know that by the age of 21, I was a hardcore alcoholic and opiate addict with one DUI under my belt. They didn't know I'd done jail time or been court-ordered to 60 days of house arrest and three years of probation, or that I was a felon and couldn't operate a vehicle without an interlock. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I feared isolation, rejection, and judgement by my peers and community members.
In 2012, after two years in recovery, I realized that even though I was sober and had come very far in my recovery process, I was stuck emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. One night before bed I realized why: I was hiding a huge part of my life journey, and through this one seemingly small act I was, in a sense, isolating, rejecting, and judging myself.
That night I decided to take a risk and spill my guts in a 500-word status update on Facebook. In my update I shared my addiction story, including many of the things I was most ashamed of. My ugly past was finally out there for everyone to like or dislike and even comment on. It was terrifying, but at the same time I felt so incredibly free.
The next day I woke up to find that the post had been shared around the world, and in less than eight hours, it had garnered over 400 likes, 140 comments, and spurred a ton of messages in my inbox from people I knew and didn't know. Their feedback pretty much all said the same thing:
Thank you for sharing your story. You've given me hope that recovery is possible.
I couldn't believe it. Many of the people I thought would judge me were accepting and supportive. They had family members and friends struggling with addiction too, and some were trying to find recovery themselves.
This experience helped me to recognize something truly life changing: all human beings suffer. I might suffer from addiction, you might suffer from depression or poverty or racism or a crippling disease, and although our suffering might look different, it’s really the same, and it’s through our suffering that we can connect and find common ground.
This is why I've chosen to share about my addiction and recovery journey in my memoir, No Tourists Allowed, and online through cosplay , the Super Hero Shift, and the work I do internationally for the addiction recovery community.
Sharing one’s story publicly takes courage and vulnerability. It means daring to ask all of you to embrace me as I am: a human being who’s done some really shady things and has some really embarrassing flaws. Today, I know that this doesn't make me any less worthy of love, compassion, and support, and I hope that by sharing my flaws, I will inspire you to accept and share your own. I hope to inspire you to be brave and vulnerable, and in turn to set yourself free. Besides…it is a really exciting time to be in recovery.
For example, Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national recovery organization in Washington, D.C., has organized a National Recovery Movement to unite recovery advocates so we can more effectively reduce barriers and the stigma surrounding addiction that people in recovery face every day. We strongly believe that every recovery voice counts and anyone related to the recovery community can be an advocate for change.
Your story has the power to transform lives and infuse hope in those still struggling. We need you to stand up and speak out about your experiences so that we can drive the movement forward and create a positive conversation around addiction and recovery throughout the world.
For anyone out there who is struggling today, please know you are not alone, and no matter how bleak your life may look, today recovery is possible. I'm living proof. If I can do it, so can you.
It’s much easier to find recovery when you have a peer to talk to—somebody who has been there and who can listen without judgement.
So if you need support, contact me. I'll help you connect with a recovery community in your area.
Oh, and thanks for listening,