"Hi, I'm Dave and I'm an alcoholic." I've made this statement numerous times over the last twelve plus years. I've said it at AA meetings. I've made this comment on different websites across the web. I've also talked about my addiction in detail in both of my books. And I've written editorials about it for our local newspaper and shared my addiction through the art of poetry in my newspaper column.
Through all of this sharing I thought that I was being accepted as kind of a role model for those who still suffer. I also thought that by my actions I was accepted by the "normal" society. But whenever I get feeling comfortable around people who have no addictions, someone will show their prejudice beliefs and talk about "that drunk."
In honesty, it doesn't bother me personally. I've been clean and sober long enough, that I realize some people will never be able to accept change. They will always wait for me to get drunk, just so they can stand up and yell "I told you he was just a drunk!"
But it hurts when I see this behavior happening to a newcomer. Someone who is trying to change their life only to be met with ridicule and shame. We as a community, as a society, should be ashamed.
I've had these feelings within me - "bottled up" - for quite some time. In my own fantasy world, I believed that I could make people understand and be more compassionate towards those of us who just want a second chance. I try to give some encouragement to newcomers through my newspaper column. In almost two years, I've shown poems written by a half-dozen alcoholics or addicts. I don't publish their poems to make them "feel good." I publish them because their poems are good.
I know that some people will say, "I don't get it." And I can understand that. Some of the poetry can only be understood if you are an alcoholic or addict. One of the best poems I've ever published was written by a young lady who is a recovering meth addict. The poem she wrote was about sitting around the tables of a NA meeting. It was powerful, it was honest, and you could almost smell the coffee brewing in the corner. She put you in that room. She made you welcomed at her 12-step meeting.
I have received many comments about that poem. Some from addicts and some from people who aren't addicted to anything. And some people have even asked me to explain it to them. Than it was my turn to explain the spiritual occurrence that takes place at a 12-step meeting. After the explanation, they reread the poem and smiled. They understood.
But there is a small minority who wished I would never show a poem from any of "them." Just show the poems of the pillars of our community. "We have a reputation to uphold! And they aren't a part of it!" It is a sad day, when we have to build up our own self-worth at the despair of others.
The fact is, that if you find a person in recovery, you'll find a person who has found some talent that they now want to share with the world. Some of these alcoholics/addicts never knew they had this talent - until they found sobriety. Some may pick up writing. Some pick up their old high school music instrument and play it like its never been played before. Some pick up a brush and create wonderful works of art. While others coach their son's 3rd grade soccer team. This is "them." These are the people who you'd like to brush under the rug and forget about.
To me, it's your loss. It's a great opportunity to understand the power of being given a second chance.