Breaking the Stigma with the Pros
In June we took a closer look at professionals in the field of recovery. The scope of this topic broadens with every passing year. We are learning about new methods for healing and opening our minds to the idea that people who are in recovery themselves make some of the very best professionals in any field. I have found this to be absolutely true in my own experience. Honest, hardworking people aren’t so easy to come by these days. The business world is filled to the brim with lies and scams and apathy. And yet in the recovery community I almost always see the exact opposite. I have found that most people in recovery don’t have room for any of those things in their personal or professional lives. These people are busy living with integrity and passion. These are the people that are out there in the real world breaking the stigma – and not just the stigma of addiction – they’re breaking the stigma of living as a person in recovery.
Early in my own recovery I began to think about the many ways in which I might be able to take what I was learning and apply it to my professional life. I could see that there was work to be done and I immediately recognized the opportunities to include this in my teaching and my writing but I was honestly afraid for people to know the whole truth about what our family had been through. Two of my most treasured guides in those early days inspired me not only with their words and teachings but with their courage to share their own stories so openly in their professional lives. I asked if they would be willing to share some thoughts with the Heroes community and I’m honored to include some of their insights on the subject of breaking the stigma as women working in the field of recovery.
I first became acquainted with Dr. Jamie Marich on Facebook, of all places, not long after I started blogging on janedoerecovery.com and established a presence in social media. Since that time I have been repeatedly drawn to her books, her trainings and eventually privileged to work with and get to know her personally. Here Jamie talks about some of her experiences working in the field and finding balance in her professional life:
“In my early recovery I learned about the importance of rigorous honesty. I wanted to practice such honesty in all areas of my life. As a young professional working in the field of addiction treatment, many surprises awaited me. Although I tried to practice solid boundaries with my clients—self-disclosing only when it might benefit the overall rapport—I got burned for being too transparent with some of my colleagues. Many of them (both recovery-identified and not) went on to use some of my vulnerable areas against me during disagreements. Some days I’d leave work in tears. My sponsor warned me that I might not want to share too much of myself. So the next decade challenged me to practice self-evaluation in determining how much or how little of my journey to share. These early professional experiences could have scared me from identifying as being in recovery and sharing openly, but I’m glad they did not. Today, I am proud of my past and the work that I’ve done on myself. I share this history pretty freely in my talks and in my writing. However, when I am working on some tender spot (which God always provides me with the chance to do), I must seek the wisdom of my support system first and really address that issue before I share that part of myself with the public. Like many areas of my recovery, it’s all about finding the point of balance.”
I had a truly epic reading list that helped me through the first year of my own healing process. While reading Jamie’s book Trauma and the Twelve Steps, literally sitting in the same stack next to my bed, was another book entitled Yoga and the Twelve Step Path. It was one of the most beautiful coincidences in my life and it brought me to my current understanding and teaching of Recovery Yoga. I traveled to San Jose to study under its author Kyczy Hawk. Here are some of her thoughts looking back over thirty years of sobriety:
“When I was in early recovery thirty years ago, there was still a lot of stigma around being a female alcoholic. We were often considered to have loose morals, be slatternly and sloppy. While these things were true in my active addiction I was working hard to reframe myself as a lady, and to learn to comport myself as a reliable member of society in my recovery. I confronted these negative assumptions, thinking to myself, “Why would anyone have denigrating thoughts about someone in RECOVERY? Surely a drunken woman teetering on a bar stool is an obviously different person now actively leading a life in sobriety.” But then course we would think that women were boozy tarts when that was all we knew or heard about alcoholism. No one could see the grace and courage of the woman walking the road of recovery. She was in the shadows, unrecognized in her anonymity while the ravages of addiction and the bodaciously active alcoholic went unquestioned and in most cases unconcealed.”
“I looked for role models, women who were living full lives in the world in sobriety. I would look around malls and stores and doctor’s offices and think to myself, “Who here is in recovery?” but it was almost impossible to recognize the “face” of recovery out on the streets of life. Maybe if we didn’t hang on to anonymity so tightly people would be able to see the power and the beauty that came along with healing. I decided then that I would be of better service being transparent about my recovery, perhaps accessible to more in that way. I have not felt any stigma as a teacher or as a writer. Maybe I have become so comfortable that I don’t have gaps in my energy for that input anymore or perhaps the times are changing.”
I do believe that the times are in fact changing. We are making progress and I believe that the stigma can be broken. These two women are an inspiration and such a blessing to me personally and to the recovery community at large. I encourage you to look for their stories here on this website and to further investigate the beautiful publications and programs that have resulted from their wisdom and experience. I would also encourage you to bravely follow your own dreams. Follow your heart and your passion, use your experiences, your strength and the hope that you have found to break the stigma.
You can help BREAK THE STIGMA by sharing your story directly on the Heroes in Recovery page and letting them know that Marta sent you. OR you can contact me through email [firstname.lastname@example.org] with your information and I can help you through the process.
Owner of Yoga and Recovery, Creator of SOAR Certification Training, Author
Newest Book: Life in Bite-Sized Morsels
Dr. Jamie Marich
Founder of Mindful Ohio, Educator, Clinician, Creator of Dancing Mindfulness, Author
Newest Book: Dancing Mindfulness: A Creative Path to Healing and Transformation