I am a person in long-term recovery who hasn’t drank alcohol or used other drugs for more than 43 years. My recovery has allowed me to be a mother, a wife, Executive Director of The Council, Project Director of PRO-ACT and many more accomplishments.
I only just started speaking publicly about my own recovery about 15 years ago, when I began to help mobilize the recovery community. I didn’t think people needed to see long term recovery role models. I now understand that we are the evidence that long term recovery is a reality. We are the proof that investing in recovery “pays off.”
I strongly believe that speaking out is not right for everyone. We respect that for many, recovery is a private matter that should stay private. To “come out” is a big decision, and we fully support an individual’s choice in this regard.
Still, there may be a misperception among some people who have been in recovery for several decades that because they no longer face stigma from their addiction, it’s not as critical to speak out publicly. The reality is that as more people earlier in their recovery have come out, we also see people talking more and more about their 20, 30, 40 years in recovery. Before they might have been afraid they were breaking traditions, or maybe they didn’t see their silence as an issue. But now they see that speaking about their recovery has some very important benefits.
Also, silence is a problem. It can breed stigma, shame and the tendency for society to treat people and families suffering from addiction differently than other chronic illnesses. My hope is that as more of us speak out, the mounting evidence that recovery is a reality will allow addiction treatment and recovery to one day be on par with the treatment regiments for other chronic diseases.
For example, I am a breast cancer survivor. The initial support I received after my diagnosis of cancer was much different than the initial support I received after my addiction diagnosis. In 1971, during my hospital admission for alcohol poisoning, my doctor called for a family meeting and presented two options: a year-long stay in a psychiatric asylum or brain surgery to alleviate my compulsion to drink alcohol (a prefrontal lobotomy). Fortunately, my minister and a female member of a recovery support meeting at my church quietly interceded. After hearing the woman’s recovery story, I learned of a third option. I experienced “peer-to-peer support” at its best, even though my connection to this support was veiled in secrecy.
This experience contrasts sharply with my battle against cancer. As a person with breast cancer, I was immediately inundated with support from the healthcare system. I recall stepping onto my oncologist’s floor and seeing a sign that read, “How can we help you with your recovery?” I was then offered “make-up and wig” advice, yoga, family counseling and nutrition consultations. When I asked my doctor how much these services cost, he replied, “Nothing. It’s all part of your treatment. We want you to have the best chance of recovery that you can possibly have.”
I want exactly the same thing for individuals and families who are suffering from the terrible disease of addiction: the best chance at recovery they can possibly have. For this to occur, addiction treatment and recovery supports services are critical, and need to be connected through the whole recovery process. We should not be fighting insurance companies for one more day of treatment, recovery check-ups or other recovery support services. We should be free from the social stigma that characterizes us as weak or morally flawed. Our disease should not take from us our dignity.
This is an exciting time for recovery. We are learning how to be more effective in dealing with this illness and how to really help people access and sustain long-term recovery. We’re also having a huge impact on their families and their children and other people that see them. And more people are speaking out in support of recovery and against barriers.
So please support recovery in whatever way you feel is right for you. Finding out more about PRO-ACT’s activities is a great place to start, as there are many, many ways that PRO-ACT members can and do support recovery. Click here to read more about PRO-ACT.
I believe that with your help, the hope for recovery is going to spread like wildfire.
Beverly J. Haberle, M.H.S., L.P.C., C.A.C.
Executive Director, The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.
Project Director, PRO-ACT
Watch the video of Beverly Haberle talking about recovery, from the makers of “The Anonymous People” http://manyfaces1voice.org/?v=89777864