I watched a great documentary film, recently, called The Anonymous People. It’s about addicts, those people everybody knows, some intimately, but nobody wants to talk about. They range from crazy, albeit harmless, Aunt Betty ,who’s never been seen without a can of beer in her hand, to Robert Downy, Jr. ,who’s gone from being a vagrant at death’s door, to one of the hottest, most respected stars in Hollywood, and everyone in between. I mean everyone in between, because addicts, whether their poison is drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, or a host of other unhealthy behaviors, are easily mistaken for the rest of us.
Still, addicts hide in plain sight, to a large extent, pariah. Why? Addiction, including alcoholism, has been recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association for over 50 years. Victims of Cancer, Parkinson’s, and just about every other major disease, aren’t discriminated against to anywhere near the degree that alcoholics and addicts are, even those in long-term (Up to 60+ years!) Recovery. But, then, these victims, of what I’ll call Mainstream Diseases, aren’t treated like criminals.
One activist in the film, a woman in recovery from Alcoholism for over 42 years, is fighting for alcoholics to receive the same level of support she received when battling Breast Cancer. “The medical community couldn’t do enough for me.”, she exclaimed.
Of the $250 Billion taxpayer dollars spent on addiction annually, only 4 % is spent on prevention and treatment. The rest is spent on prosecution and incarceration. It’s common knowledge that The War on Drugs has been failing miserably for over five decades. Still, archaic laws, that do far more harm than good on multiple levels, remain in effect. Get pulled over for driving drunk and the System welcomes you with open arms and processes you post haste. Try to get a heroin addict into a rehab and you could be bogged down in red tape for weeks. It’s insane.
It’s, also, ironic that the film places much of the responsibility for the stigma connected with addiction on addicts themselves. It dissects the Traditions of 12 Step Programs which emphasize the importance of anonymity, and how these are too often misinterpreted to the detriment of the Fellowship. At one point in the film, Bill Wilson, himself, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, the mother of all 12 Step Programs, actually encourages recovering alcoholics to speak about their own recovery and to advocate for the rights of other alcoholics, as long as they do not involve the twelve-step group by name.
To that end, then, I’m Jim and I am in long-term recovery, which means that I have not used alcohol for more than 15 years. I am committed to recovery because it has given me and my family new purpose and hope for the future, while helping me gain stability in my life. I am now speaking out because long-term recovery has helped me change my life for the better, and I want to make it possible for others to do the same.
With over 22,000,000 alcoholics in the United States alone, and only 2,000,000 in recovery, how can I not?