My experience with social stigma as a recovering addict.
| 10/29/19 Tuesday
So today I found out in a roundabout way that my own grandmother talks shit about me. Hm. I didn't really know how to respond to this. I mean, I'm not close to her, and I can't say I'm surprised, but it still hurt my heart to hear. She watched me lose two children (from a distance, of course) to a horrific disease, and then stood by criticizing me about the fallout...sigh.
I don't know.
Some days I'm sick of fighting.
I'm sick of fighting the stigma of addiction, of prison time, of a criminal record, of being a woman...I'm sick of all of it. It seems like daily I get into a political argument on Facebook with a staunch Trump supporter (yes, they still exist--I was surprised too), or have to defend myself for not being employed outside the home (I freelance write these days, which doesn't pay the bills), or for some other reason related to social stigmas.
In the rooms of AA and NA they teach us not to "take other people's inventories," which basically means to focus on yourself and realize that other people have their own mental and physical problems to deal with. My question is: Why aren't we taught this as a general principle for life? I've dealt with all kinds of judgments my entire life, but I have to say that the judgment about addiction has been the most difficult to handle. I've been clean and sober for over a year now, and my own grandmother is still bitching and complaining that I'm not taking care of my own children. I mean, believe me: I would if I could. But a few years ago, my parents and my ex-husband sued me for custody of them in a combined case against me and won, so that's not an opportunity that I have.
When people assume that addiction is some sort of moral failing or a "mind over matter" life event that has to do with gluttony and indulgence, it minimizes the struggles and sorrows that the average addict has had to put up with in his or her life. Addiction doesn't just happen because somebody had too much too often, it is a brain disease that changes how our pleasure center in the brain functions and responds to everything. It is often connected to trauma and abuse, and it is also often a coping mechanism gone very, VERY wrong.
In my story, I was unable to deal with PTSD symptoms and grief associated with my two children dying from Epidermolysis Bullosa (Junctional-Herlitz subtype), which is a gruesome skin disease in which the children's skin literally falls off until they eventually die--usually from infections. I fell apart and started drinking all of the time, and eventually lost custody of all three of my other children and went to prison. My question is this: How long do I have to pay for this?
I used to be a teacher at one of the premiere veterinary technician college programs in the country, and now I can't even get a job at an SPCA. Literally. And I don't have any felonies. I could quote statistics about the prison industry in this country, or how ineffective "the war on drugs" is, or all kinds of other things, but the bottom line is that we don't empathize with other people anymore if they fall into a certain category, and that has to change. We are punishing the doctors that prescribed the drugs in the first place, but not treating the underlying causes of addiction; which is often the systemic abuse and sexual assault of children in this country, ineffectual coping mechanisms in adulthood, and the ignorance of the masses.