I used to think I was alone, that no one cared. This was supported by when I screwed up, everyone pointed it out. When I excelled well beyond their expectations, I got silence! In fact, it was as if nobody cared by the amount of success I’d worked so hard to achieve. Suddenly, my SUCCESS was TOP SECRET! So I could distance myself from the rest of the world and the very things I wanted badly (belonging and understanding), or change my view and tactics and advocate to the people who mattered. Little did I realize how much of an impact talking about success to others would matter. My problem was I shadowed my successes to the highlighted negative.
The same choice applies to celebrating our victories. Do we choose to not celebrate (TOP SECRET), celebrate with our recovery family (INNER CIRCLE), or do we celebrate openly and publicly? Typically, the public only sees the negative. The media is quick to point out when someone overdoses – “It’s an epidemic!” Or, that this person committed this violent crime – “Mental health disorder!” They don’t show people in recovery and how far they’ve come. In fact, we’re told we should’ve been doing this all along and don’t need a pat on the back for it! We are a living billboard and a direct reflection of what the public sees. Like it or hate it, it doesn’t change the fact. If one person carries this much persuasive power, celebrating our recovery openly and publicly gives us a chance to change the public perception.
How many people support local recovery centers or can name just one center in their community? The community would care if they were made aware of it. The public outside the addiction/mental health circles hasn’t a clue what’s going on. In a way, our stories are like infomercials. The key points are to show the before (problem) and after result, with the success we’ve achieved. It does us little to no good sharing only the problems, while our successes remain shadowed. We would get silence from the community while strengthening the preconceived stereotypes. Thus, what I had experienced for so long. To quote a dear colleague of mine, “Sad stories don’t pay bills.” We need to share our success to anyone who will listen, the public included.