So I’ve been. on my sober journey for about 6 months and other than my husband and those I’ve met through Alcoholics Anonymous, no-one in my life knows about my addiction. Today, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I put myself out there and I opened up about my personal struggles to a friend.
I’ve said this before, if I had cancer, or when I had my pulmonary embolism I had no problem shouting from rooftops what my diagnosis was and what treatment I was undergoing. But when it comes to mental health and alcoholism, I have been so incredibly guarded, acutely aware that whilst society has come along way, we still have a long way to go in accepting these ‘invisible illnesses’ as real illnesses.
I know myself that when I hear the term Alcoholic, I used to conjure the thought of hopeless old men, lying on the side of the road drinking cheap liquor from a brown paper bag and sleeping rough. There are many alcoholics out there like this, they were once in my place, but there are also a-lot of all alcoholics in society that are normal people just like you and me.
I was initially reluctant to actually say the words ‘I have been in Alcoholics Anonymous‘, but when I did, I was met with compassion, kindness and understanding and it was incredibly liberating. We both admitted things about ourselves and our pasts that were deeply private and personal, and there was no judgement whatsoever.
For me, actually acknowledging that I had / have a problem, felt like I was finally taking off the shackles. I have been anonymously writing about my experiences, but I’ve never had the courage to tell anyone in my current life about my past life.
One of the biggest problems with our society is the our relationships seem to be so superficial. I find it fascinating that we have such a huge cohort of the population suffering from mental health conditions and addiction, yet if I really look at my network, I can only name one person who has openly disclosed the they have and are suffering every single day, and this is fucked.
If we all came out and said we had a physical injury or condition, people would be there to support us, but when it is invisible, people don’t want to know and people label you. No-one in remission from cancer is labelled as the ‘former cancer patient’ but she or he who has admitted to depression, we label them as depressed for life.
Mental health awareness has improved significantly since my suicide attempt 15 years ago, but we still have a heck of a long way to go.