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PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 2:42 pm 
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Okay, lets see if this has happened to anyone else... Due to my past life (pre-drugs) I know a lot of people. Many only know me through a magazine column that I authored for over 15 years, through articles I've written, through some work I've done on radio, and through playing with bands on stage. Therefore, many don't really "know" me. I'm no television star by any means, but I am known throughout the state I live in by more people than the average person is. Then there are a couple hundred or so people who I was/am "friends" with. Over the past three or four months I have been back in touch with some of them. I had a huge life change in October 2009 when my secret of addiction was revealed. Not everyone knows. Many who do, have never really spoken to me about it. Then there are those who actually are aware, and that is the group that I am speaking about now. It has happened about a half dozen times now that I have been in contact with some of the people who know what happened. Everything seems normal, until... I make a comment about being sober or drug-free or whatever for close to 16 months. As soon as I say or write that (in an e-mail) things seem to change. They seem to pull back. Some never respond again.

My question to the group is, has this happened to you? I almost wonder if I should be keeping my mouth shut about this? I often only bring it up because I think they may be wondering. I guess a little part of me is proud of having gotten this far. Part of me wants them to know that I'm no longer using drugs and am back to being the person they thought I was all along. I just get the feeling that they don't want to hear it. It almost reminds me of what happens when someone becomes "born again" in their faith. Nothing wrong with that. They just often preach religion and that turns others off, or they just don't think of them as the same person. Are these "friends" worried that I'm yet a different person - one who lives and breathes 12-step and sobriety? I don't know. All I know is, nearly a year ago already I stopped telling people I was on Suboxone, due to their reaction. They just didn't understand. I think I will now stop telling people that I have been drug free for 16 months. I just don't think they want to hear it or can handle hearing it.

Anyone have any thoughts or expierences? Has this happened to any of you? Keep in mind, these are all non-using friends who, to the best of my knowledge, having never had addiction issues in their life. These are not fellow addicts I'm talking about. I'd love to hear if this has happened to anyone else.

Wow, don't ask don't tell, hey? I just think they are not comfortable hearing or talking about it. When going through my divorce five years ago, I found the same thing with many people. Many just did not want to talk about it with me. Perhaps they don't want to think of me as a drug addict? Perhaps they don't want to think that the "rumors" are true and when I tell them that I've been drug-free for 16 months it confirms to them that I REALLY WAS a drug addict? Yet, the last three people that this happened with clearly know what happened. What is going on here? Have any of you had people in your life respond this way? Man, will I ever figure people out?


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 Post subject: dont' ask, don't tell
PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:37 pm 
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Well, Donh, I think people probably just don't know what to say. I think there are many situations that leave people at a loss as to how to respond--for instance, if you had suffered the death of a spouse or child, you might find that some people didn't know what to say to you. Or if you received a diagnoses of cancer or something. Or even a divorce. Your situation is pretty specific in that you have been publicly "outed." So people know about it but don't seem to want to talk to you about it. Like I said, I suspect they just don't know what to say. It sounds awkward for you for sure but I guess the only advice i have to you is to do what feels right in each individual situation and try not to worry about how others react. Addiction issues are really common so some of the people you think have no experience with addiction maybe really do. In fact there may be some people who don't want to talk about it for that very reason--they don't want to talk about their own experiences.

Anyway, I'm sure the above isnt' anything you haven't already thought about. As for my own experience--actually I've been "outed" to friends and family more than once but never publicly outed to my work or anything like that. My family and I have mostly handled it by ignoring it. There isn't anything they can do so they let me handle it and allow me my privacy. If I asked for help I'm sure they would try to help me. At work, well, I think some people suspected but my boss definitely did not want to know. Among my friends, some people gossiped about me, and some people shunned me. others seemed to go with don't ask/don't tell or live and let live.

Once I was hanging out with some people from an NA group and one of them said he makes a point of telling everyone, including prospective employers that he is a recovering addict. Another guy said 'well, I don't know, the stigma is so extreme, I'd rather keep it private." So I guess I really feel it's a personal choice, how much one reveals, and to whom. In your case you don't always have a choice about who knows of your past. I think you should just go by how you feel in each instance and you may find that some people you didn't expect to respond positively will. but bottom line is...I think things tend to blow over after a couple of years....and most people are more concerned about their own situations than yours so...maybe people have forgotten by now, about the whole thing that happened to you? sorry, I dont' mean to minimize it, obviously I dont' know exactly what your situation is/was. It sounds pretty public. Oh, one more thing to add--actually recently i talked to an old friend and practically the first thing he said was 'are you still using." Honestly, I didn't feel very comfortable with how blunt he was. I guess it's just one of those \awkward subjects and there aren't any definite rules about how to handle talking about it.

Anyway Donh, the main thing is how much you've rebuilt your life, which it sure sounds like you continue to do well with that.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:04 pm 
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Hey donh,

I've experienced the exact same reaction from people. When I discuss my addiction with a fellow addict, they understand, they usually want to hear the whole story. When I bring up the subject of my addiction to other friends who are not addicts, I get the feeling they are minimizing drug addiction. None of them has said it, but this is the impression I get from them: Well, I'm glad you finally smartened up and quit drugs, it's about time.

I honestly believe that these folks just don't have a clue as to what it's like to live with our disease, therefore, they have no frame of reference to empathize with us. All they know is what they see on TV. Another drug addict OD'd, another drug addict got thrown in jail, another drug addict left his kids at home while he went out to score, another drug addict broke into someones house to rob them....they needed the money to support their drug habit, etc, etc.

We drug addicts have basically become pariah's. That's my take on the situation.

Thank goodness for a forum such as this one where all of us addicts can gather and feel respected and feel like others actually care about the situation we're in.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 8:04 am 
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I don't have experience being outed, but I wanted to add my support and mirror some of what auto said. I've found that the people I have told actually had someone close to them who was an addict, too. I think the ones who reacted negatively to you or pulled back just felt it was awkward. Then there's that they may have never been really that close to you and are in general uncomfortable with such intimate knowledge - be it addiction or divorce. I do think many of the people you've yet to tell will understand. But the ones who have not have left a bad taste in your mouth, gun shy, so to speak. I generally wait to tell someone about my addiction until I feel we are close enough for them to handle it. Otherwise, I don't tell people and I keep it very private. Those I consider to be acquaintances only I definitely do not tell.

This probably doesn't help you, but I did want to try to share my perspective. Bottom line -I don't think it's you - I think it's the nature of the closeness of your relationship with them.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:22 am 
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Donh,

I understand the desire to want to be congruent in our lives...living transparently in a sense...not feeling like we have to hide parts of ourselves, important parts. I also understand being proud of how far you've come in recovery and you should be proud of 16 months. Congratulations by the way. That is a huge accomplishment and we here know how difficult that is.

Initially with my first five years of sobriety I worked closely in my church and in AA in the small community I lived in. I worked also with adolescents...they all came over to my house to hang out and talk knowing I understood them, that I wasn't just preaching at them. I loved being a part of that. However, other things happened and I ended up getting divorced....and my recovery was used against me. People who appeared supportive prior to the divorce treated me like I was a freak...one "friend" of mine even said something like "Well, I just decided to try a vicodin last night to see what that was all about for you and frankly I just don't get it" and she said this in a very pissy way. I was blown away....many of these people were part of my church and when I made a decision to leave an abusive husband they all abandoned me. NICE. There is a point here....LOL....so, after I moved out of this town I made a decision to keep my recovery to myself. I rarely talked about it and subsequently did a lot less for my recovery as well. (this is during the time I ended up in a 2 year relapse prior to going on methadone. There were certain times I talked about it (at meetings, obviously!) such as at my interview for grad school....I wanted to be on the addictions track in psychology and felt it important that they knew about my recovery. I was not at all judged there....and I made a conscious descision to NOT tell the agency I was hired at after grad school about my recovery. I checked pollicies and procedures etc to make sure I was doing everything by the book and I didn't have to tell them. I was also doing random ua's as I was in the methadone clinic so I knew I was accountable. But, I walked around waiting for the other shoe to drop...fearing retaliation if someone were to find out. Well, as my story goes my ex told them and I was fired. BUT, the reason I say this is because I then made a different decision...to go back and live congruently....that all areas of my life needed to feel blended, that I wasn't holding back in one place, a different person in another....that kind of thing. It doesn't mean I run around and tell everyone I'm in recovery because that just isn't smart and it doesn't help me. And sometimes its difficult to know who to tell. We do our best, we do what we think is right and if the other person can't handle it, then that's their problem.

So, I know you are a smart guy and make good decisions in recovery for yourself...so telling people about your recovery is probably something you've thought through...and then found that these people backed off. Maybe they did...maybe they didn't...maybe it just seems that way? I don't know the whole situation but I also know that I can be a bit "paranoid" about recovery....thinking someone might be judging me when they aren't. It kind of goes back to that real basic premise of 'not everyone is thinking about me'....LOL...I'm just thinking about me all the time....!! I am not saying you are doing that, I just understand what this all feels like.

You mentioned emailing the information...that's tricky for sure. Email and texting just by themselves in normal conversations is difficult...saying something super important in them is disasterous...I'm less inclined to communicate that way any more...altho its easy and quick and what everyone does, I'm finding it to be a nightmare!

The other thing I was thinking as I was reading your post is we really do find out who are true friends are when the shit hits the fan. During my divorce, and with people who knew about my recovery and the huge issues in the marriage, only 2 friends stuck by me. I learned that I already knew deep down who was truly my friend before that...and now can be more discerning about people. The people who really care about you will not change in their opinion of you....they will be excited for your accomplishment in recovery and support you and want you to succeed and to talk about it. Unless the other people can affect your daily life then I'd say forget them...either they don't know what to say (like when there's a death people want to support but have no idea what to do) or they are scared. I know people can be scared of us. It's ludicrious but its true.

Recovery is a huge part of us and we should be proud of it. We are making changes daily learning to live healthy without drugs..and we are on this forum and doing other things in our lives to continue to work at it...we put ourselves out there, ask for help, look within, make changes....we do a lot more than most of the population when it comes to working on ourselves. We should be proud of this work. What I find is others don't want to look at themselves. Its scary and hard...yeah, been there. But I feel sorry for them...because everyone has an issue or two or five hundred. What I found in a group of people who abandoned me is they had as many issues as I did, they just put up a facade instead of being real. Maybe they didn't know how to be real, maybe they believed they had nothing to work on. Who knows. I am glad I've had the chance to be in recovery. It has changed me for the better and its a process for sure. I'm not perfect but I've found a way to live within my own skin that is comfortable and happy.

So, Donh...I doubt this helped much but you know yourself how much you've changed and it may be that there are certain people you shouldn't tell...or maybe you should and their response is what is telling and gives you information....or maybe they are hiding their own addictions...and you've then opened up a small door for them somehow but they just aren't ready yet. Who knows.
It's definitely a great topic for discussion...There are days I will tell a complete stranger about being in recovery (no details, tho!) depending on our conversation...if I feel it is a helpful thing for them to know. I've learned to keep things very simple..to not go into detail and to tell my story in a very general way. People who don't know addiction or recovery and even some that do cannot understand the shit we've done. So that is where I am today with this topic. Be discerning, disclose if necessary and keep it general.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:53 am 
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I think many people don't know what to say and therefore don't want to know. Many people view it as a very personal topic. I guess I don't discuss my other medical conditions with acquaintances or even many I call friends. So I guess maybe they look at it that way. Maybe the fact they are having an exchange with you means they don't care or harbor bad feelings about it but they also don't want to have to comment on it. Many other people prefer to pretend these things don't exist. If this is the reaction you are getting then I wouldn't bring it up to anyone. I understand why you feel compelled to mention something.

Take care Don!

Cherie

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 Post subject: Wow, yes I can relate!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:57 pm 
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Unfortunately, I don't think it's always best to be honest with everyone about your progress in recovery. That's sucks because you'd like for the people around you to share in the wonderful changes you've made in your life. We share when we have fallen in love, when we have a child, when we have lost a family member, etc. It follows that people should want to hear about victory in our struggles with addiction. It just doesn't always play out that way.

I was a 'functioning' alcoholic most of the time. I hid it extremely well, which ended up being to my own detriment. When I came clean with people, I got a variety of reactions. Mostly, people were shocked. I was incredibly hurt to know that some absolutely lost respect for me after learning I was a recovering alcoholic. A couple encouraged me to not tell anyone else, as it would 'reflect badly on my children' and to not attend meetings, since someone may find out. Ouch! I also had a few people argue vehemently against my claim of being an alcoholic, which was really odd. I know one of them had her own addictions and that's likely why she didn't like me sharing about my recovery. Maybe she felt I was putting pressure on her. There were some people who were fantastic when I told them, gave me a huge hug, and encouraged me to keep going. In the end, I decided to contain sharing my experiences to my closest friends and family and people who were in recovery themselves. People who have never suffered from addiction just cannot truly understand it. It baffles them. Sometimes, it reminds them of what they've been put through as a result of a loved one's addiction and it angers them. I don't want to be the subject of malicious gossip and I certainly don't want my addiction history reflecting badly on my children! At the same time, the small number of people I'd told in my old town had told other people, who told other people and I knew a large number of people eventually knew. My conclusion was to hold my head up high and expect other people to think well of me and to appreciate the responsible way I was living my life in sobriety. I refuse to allow other people's opinions and lack of understanding make me feel ashamed for having a disease I didn't ask to have and was valiantly keeping in check.

I'm glad you brought this up, donh, as I like hearing about other people's experiences, especially experiences that men have had, as I've wondered if it's different than women. Most of my peers are other moms, and we can be awfully judgmental of one another. We are under a huge amount of pressure to be seen as good mommies and the worst thing is for another parent to think you don't love your children because you were a drunk or an addict. I wonder if men face the same harsh judgment.

laddertipper

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:41 pm 
Hi donh....nice food for thought. And you've gotten some excellent responses already. I'll add mine because as you know, your situation is about is similar to my own as I have run across. There are obvious differences in our experiences, but many similarities regarding having been a well-known healthcare provider for many many years in your community, and having 100s of coworkers, acquaintences, friends, etc who came to know about our addictions in a very public way.
Although my 'outing' was not quite as dramatic and publicized as yours was, it certainly was a well-known dramatic turn of events with someone that everyone thought they 'knew' well and never in a million years would have believed that I was a flaming opiate addict who would up stealing drugs from my employer.
I couldn't face any of those people for months. I was too ashamed and felt so guilty and felt sure that every one of them either A) hated me or B)loved to see the 'mighy' one fall or C)would be too disappointed in me to ever want to know me again! I knew my situation was being discussed heavily for the first several weeks all this came out and I had all kinds of imaginations about what was being said about me. I finally got to the point of ending my obsessive thoughts about that stuff, realizing that it wasn't helping me....at all. I finally stopped (well almost) thinking about it so much.
About that time, I did receive a few calls from a few people who I really felt the closest to in my career. They were kind, they reached out to me. And really just seemed to be more interested in whether or not I was okay than getting any sort of 'scoop' about what all happened. It was pretty easy to be honest with them, as I could tell they sincerely cared.
So there were those few that I discussed to a limited degree of depth about what I had done and what I was going through and how I was doing. They were supportive and did not seem interested in delving any deeper into the details. So I let it go at that.
Now that it's been two and a half years and it's all old news, I find myself encountering more and more people from my former career. I'll see someone anywhere from the grocery store to a birthday party of a mutual friend, to at a church service! I'm never sure what sort of reception I'll get! Generally, they act happy to see me, give me a hug, look me kind of up and down, tell me I look well, we chat small talk for a few minutes and that's it! It's like it's enough for them to see that I'm still alive.....I must surely be doing okay as I'm still out and about and looking healthy and I think that's all they need to know. Especially if they were not real close friends to begin with. I certainly wouldn't open a discussion about my treatment, recovery, Sub use, etc with them, as I'm pretty sure they wouldn't understand and it would make them feel uncomfortable. At times I wish I could talk to them about it. I want everyone to know how much better I am. I'd like to be able to tell them one by one how sorry I am for having disappointed them....and I may someday if I feel so led. In fact, I already have to the closest of my former coworkers.
Anyway....I guess it is kind of "don't ask, don't tell" for most of these people. Although we'd like to share more so they could understand how far we've come, they're just not interested in the details....for any variety of reasons, many that have been posted in your other replies.
I will add real quick that about a week ago I was in a situation with one of my former coworkers. We were at a Bible Study with many other women...two of whom I had previously worked with and know of my 'downfall.' In a random drawing to "pair off" I wound up with one of those women. This is a lady I worked with for several years, but not someone with whom I was particularly close. Anyway, we spoke for a few minutes about any concerns we may have and I verbalized to her that it always bothered me that everyone who knew me in the workplace would only remember what I did at the end, that I was abusing drugs and had royally screwed up my life. She looked me square in the eyes and said, "No....I promise you, that is NOT the first thing anyone thinks of when we think of you. There is so much more! You were with us all those years, don't you know? We all respected you, thought the world of you, thought you were one of the best, smartest, most skilled nurses we'd ever had....You were always nice, always funny...we have so many stories that involve you," she said, "That is NOT all we think of. I promise!" That really lifted a weight off my back. She'd have no reason to lie to me. I think sometimes I think the worst, when it really isn't as bad as I think it is.
It takes a long time. But finally I feel like I'm getting there. I'm getting to a place where I can feel a little bit of sense of pride....just in the fact that I have survived the worst possible thing that I could have ever imagined happening to me. I have survived and I'm trying my best to see that I never go down that road again....that I never hurt myself or the people I care about like that again. There has to be some worth there!
You too, donh, have survived something so awful, so life-changing. But here you are, still alive and doing so well. All these months without even a slip-up! There may not be very many people who are comfortable hearing about it. And I don't think it's because they don't care. They just don't know what to do with it, where to put it, how to react to it, how to frame it up, whatever. Because they have never been there.....they can't help but be clueless on the issue. It's an uncomfortable topic to anyone who doesn't know addiction very well. They just don't know what to say.
What I've been doing is just letting my countenance, my demeanor, the way I carry myself, looking well and healthy and happy, speak for itself. I act like I use to act with these people....give a hug and chat, ask about their lives, etc. If they want to ask me something about how I'm doing, I'll go from there. So far, that's been rare. I think they mostly just want to see that I'm not some strung-out hopeless junkie. If nothing else, we are giving them sort of the "new face of addiction" to think about.....highly functioning opiate addicts. Now they'll know that just because it doens't seem possible.....it is! If it could happen to us, it could happen to absolutely anyone.
It's tough, I know. I guess we each just find our way as we go along. I'm glad to have some people on this forum and a few others close to me who I can speak to openly about this part of my life, but I realize that it's not healthy to discuss with just anyone and everyone.
Thanks for another interesting conversation donh!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:32 am 
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If I was in healthcare and these old acquaintances were hugging me I would be certain they were just checking my pupils. hahaha. :roll:

No hugs Don.
:)
-Jack

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