The Lighter Side

By: Debra McKenna

Debra McKenna has been involved in the recovery community for nearly 25 years. She is a former writer and editor for city magazines in Denver, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas as well as the author of the novel Recovering from Life. You can download a Kindle sample of Recovering from Life by visiting her website at

Coming Out From the Shadows

(not rated)

Sep 29, 2015

I’d never made a conscious decision to be “Visible, Vocal and Valuable” in recovery, though it’s this year’s theme for National Recovery Month.

In all honesty, I felt a bit ambivalent about writing a blog in a recovery magazine even though I’d already written a novel involving the subject. As we all do, I have another life, and another writing life, and I didn’t want to get pigeon holed or excluded for other writing jobs if a potential client discovered my blog and didn’t care for my background. Still, these concerns didn’t stop me, and I’m glad they didn’t. Not only have the aforementioned issues become irrelevant to me, but I’ve also realized that I actually needed to become more vocal.  I am, after all, a communicator and a storyteller. And recovery is a big part of my story.

Lo and behold, this realization came to me via a newcomer at a meeting a few months ago.  The young woman who spoke shared her feelings about the disease aspect of alcoholism and how she didn’t want to feel ashamed of her disease. What she said hit me in a new way and started me thinking. It occurred to me that many folks in recovery have a split personality, maybe especially those who have been in the program a while. Yes, we acknowledge that our alcoholism or addiction is a disease, but then we treat it like a secret. 

Sure, the founders of AA made the program anonymous, hence the two As.  However, times have changed. Our culture is more open to the shades of gray of human experience. We’re supposed to be a more inclusive society, not to mention that we’re all about advocating for victims of various illnesses.

So, why, then, do we keep the disease of addiction in the shadows so much? This furtive behavior makes the condition, the disease, seem like it has a moral component.  Isn’t that how the general public saw alcoholism back in the day—in the 20s, 30s, and 40s?  Hell, even the 50s, 60s, and later.  Alcoholism was viewed by many as some sort of moral affliction.  But if alcoholism is a disease, how could it have a moral component? 

Consider this: cancer victims aren’t yoked with shame or moral inferiority because they have cancer.  They don’t hide in the shadows.  They don’t remain anonymous.  ALS patients don’t either, nor do MS patients or people with heart disease.  Still, it seems in many ways that societies across the world continue the mindset of 75 or 100 years ago: alcoholism is the outer cloak of some inner moral lapse.  Alcoholics are somehow morally bereft and ethically inferior to regular folks.  They simply have no self-control.

Come on people. It’s 2015. Time to treat alcoholism and addiction issues for what they are: a disease. So if those of us in recovery are not willing to be visible and vocal about our disease and our recovery, who’s going to be?  If we keep hiding in the shadows, how will a light ever shine on the subject?  How will people still suffering from addiction in its many forms every feel worthy of seeking the help that they need? 

I’m not saying that anonymity is a bad thing.  I’m simply saying that perhaps its iron fist needs to relax because, again, times have changed.  While it’s not my job to break your anonymity, it might be my job to break mine.  If we keep acting like we have something to be ashamed of, then that’s how the world is going to treat us.



Far From Alone

Love Eternal

Speaking Out to Heal Within



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