The life of an addict or alcoholic is chaotic; the disease sets people on unusual, often painful trajectories. Each person living with addiction has a story to tell; this is especially true for individuals in recovery. How a man or woman finds themselves in a position to heal from the disease can serve as an authoritative source of inspiration for the millions still in the shadows of addiction.
Many profound autobiographies have been published in recent years as the stigma of mental illness softens. People are finding the courage to shed the shame that society wrongly inflicts on men and women with behavioral health disorders. Empowered, they set out to help themselves heal by penning their experiences, and helping others is a salient byproduct of sharing one’s story.
Each day, countless individuals take a seat in the rooms of recovery across the country to share their experience, strength, and hope. They do so with full knowledge that what is said in a meeting stays in the meeting. The addict or alcoholic’s history is not intended for the outside world, where what is said might be used against them one day. Anonymity is foundational to recovery.
Of course, when people first began finding the solution and spreading the message, it was a very different time. Scientists had yet to state that addiction is a disease unequivocally. Calls for society to treat the afflicted just like anyone else who has a potentially fatal health condition were a long way off. Anonymity was logical and served as a shield for people vulnerable to social stigmas.
Today, the fight to end the practice of shaming people with mental health disorders continues. However, significant progress has been made, which causes people to feel less reticent about going public with their addiction.
Helping Others Heal from Addiction
If active addiction precipitates a brand of shame, shouldn’t recovery then lead to an acknowledgment of courage, from society? The answer is yes, but that is not always the case, sadly. That’s not to say that people who choose to make changes for the better deserve a medal. Recovery is the reward, and humility is one of the bedrocks that long-term sobriety is built upon.
People who were once looking up at the bottom, but are now productive members of the world community, are of great benefit to all. Their actions inspire and give hope around every turn. In the last two decades, many people in recovery have had their stories published. The authors’ writings provide clarity on their mission, and they assist others in seeing that addiction doesn’t need to be a death sentence.
Nic Sheff’s Tweak and We All Fall Down, Augusten Burroughs’ Dry, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, and Leslie Jamison’s Recovering are just some examples of rebirth through recovery. There are perhaps too many autobiographical accounts to mention in one post. Both people in and out of recovery can benefit from reading harrowing accounts of healing.
Idiot Wind: A Memoir
“Once the bridge is burnt, every addict becomes an island, no matter what John Donne says.” – Peter Kaldheim
The trend of baring one’s soul on the page is going to continue in light of waning stigmas and a need to confront the addiction epidemic in America. People who can give chapter and verse on what it takes to find long-term recovery can be the impetus for others who need help.
Peter Kaldheim had his memoir Idiot Wind published recently. The book recounts his history of substance misuse and crisscrossing the country on a journey that eventually sees him finding recovery. Martha Anne Toll, writing for NPR, states:
“Reflecting America’s long romance with the road, Kaldheim looks longingly through the rearview mirror, nostalgic and proud, but also mourning his losses… He’s traveled a long distance — and not just geographically. From Catholic boarding school, to holding three jobs in order to graduate summa cum laude from Dartmouth, to torching a promising publishing career, to reconstructing his life on the cusp of middle age, Kaldheim wears the scars of a lifetime.”
If you are looking for a recovery read this summer, then Idiot Wind might be of some interest.
Colorado Addiction Recovery Center
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