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Harvard Health Blog
Going public with sobriety
- By Peter Grinspoon, MD, Contributor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Alcoholics and addicts in recovery who are actively working the AA program are working on personal growth and wise living choices that greatly improve themselves and their relationships. The Alanon program holds true for family members and friends of alcoholics and addicts. Alanon teaches loved ones the three C’s: you didn’t cause it, you can’t control and you can’t cure it. The alcoholic is the only one who can stop the substance use…and he has to reach a point where he wants to. When family and friends live the Alanon principles, the alcoholic is more likely to make a change. Thank you for your article. The stigmatism surrounding alcoholism and addiction must change, and the fact that it is a disease of the brain must be made known. It’s NOT a moral failing!
Thank you for your insightful comments!
When does a person dealing with addicts stop with the compassion and no longer support the addict? When does tough love take a stand?
That’s a fantastic and complex question. The short answer: never. I wrote an earlier blog piece for Harvard Health on exactly that topic. I’ll try to link it here, but hopefully won’t cause an explosion or anything by trying to link a Harvard Health link on a Harvard Health site…
Well said. Thank you.
Thanks for your feedback!
Great post! Thank you! Addiction crosses all walks of life. It can happen to any of us. Getting it out in the open is crucial for Recovery. Diane RN in recovery.
Thanks for your comments! Agree completely.
Agreed that overcoming opiate addiction is absolutely brutal. I have struggled desperately. I am open about my past and hope that my story helps others. I have a chronic pain issue with my feet and ankles and am having an extremely difficult time with diagnosis and treatment. I go in with the sentence, I am in recovery. I still get weird looks from the drs and feel that I have been dismissed by many. Hopefully I can get some relief soon. I am very grateful for my circle of people that are supportive. Thank you for your openness. My primary Dr in Louisiana told me he was addicted and eventually died at 50 years old. This addiction does not know any boundaries.
Thank you for your heartfelt comments. I am sorry to hear about your chronic pain issues. Actually, 2 of my earlier posts might be relevant, “Treating Pain After An Opiate Addiction” and also “Medical Cannabis”. In my opinion, the most dangerous thing one can do is NOT treat the pain of someone in recovery adequately; that is just asking for trouble.
I do not have addition issues, but have two sons who do. Both have received treatment. One is sober and one isn’t. So I have thought a lot about this issue. One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is about the social situation. Maybe in a big city you have options, but where I live there is literally no where to go in the evening to socialize with other humans except bars. This is just wrong. I wonder if anyone out there has some creative ideas.
I had to change every aspect in my life once I got sober. Socially, AA became my social outlet in the evening. I live in a small town and I immersed myself in Recovery. I made 45 or 50 close friends at the meetings and I live a fantastic life. I knew I’d die (poison myself) in under 6 months if I went back to drinking. I’m 10 years sober and it’s amazing. Everyone I hang out with (except family) is in the 12 step programs and sober/clean. So – go out for coffee or pizza before or after a meeting. Invite people over to your house if there’s no where else to go. You don’t have to change much…just everything.
Recovery comes from within. Part of the process is to let go what others think of you. I have seen too many people who use the stigma card as a way NOT to do the work. Peter, I admire your work and your recovery, but stigma ain’t the issue
Hi Brianne, always appreciate your opinion! True, have seen it work both ways. Thank you.
Thank you everyone. There’s so many people who think it’s all just a choice. That is so far from the truth. It is our choice to seek help once we know there’s a better way of life that’s possible for us. Trying to climb out of that hole we are in is what’s so hard. We have no self esteem or self worth left that we don’t even think we diserve to.
Agree completely! If people knew how miserable it is to be actively addicted, with your life collapsing, they would know that no one would “choose” addiction…
Thank you for the Article. I’ve done the whole addiction, self harm, near death thing. Now, as a marketer, I run #soberworldorg – Promoting simply “Stress Education” – ans Positively Eliminating Addictions through education, brain training , encouraging reduction of Dopamine inducing stimulating activities, self help and more. Yes, compassion, solidarity, and support … sure – and also absolutely rocking coherent living, sleeping better, reducing cancer risks, better relationships, save money, less stress, less anxiety. We rock the Party Coherent concept – and having fun being normal, living without cancerous neurotoxins. pf
—-Unfortunately, drug and alcohol disorders, along with other mental health disorders such as depression, are among the most stigmatized of all maladies.
I am not sure what anyone accomplishes in using the term “stigmatized”.
Misunderstood is without bias.
Understand what you are saying and appreciate your input; unfortunately, they are misunderstood AND stigmatized (people have negative associations with people suffering from addiction, not just lack of knowledge…). If it were just a question of misunderstanding, our job would be easier!
Thank you, Dr. Grinspoon, for having the courage and compassion to share your story with both the public and the medical community. Compassionate care is a laudable goal and certainly within reach!
Thank you for your support and encouragement!
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