A few months ago, I got the following in a text message.
“Oh my God, (insert popular radio morning show) is talking about all the easiest places to get laid, and some guy just called in and mentioned the meetings you go to in our town specifically.”
I was sickened.
This radio station serves two countries and is the number one rated show among 18-40 year olds. We’re talking MILLIONS of listeners.
Apparently, the dude, who did not leave his name, claimed to have “banged” three women fresh out of rehab, within days of attending his first meeting.
There’s so much that bothers me about this.
First, I am a member of that recovery community. It’s not my whole life, but it is certainly my safe place to go. I found myself looking around at the men at my meetings wondering, “Was it him? How about that guy?” Trusting others is not always easy for recovering addicts, and I kept looking over my shoulder trying to decide who was “safe” and who wasn’t. My recovering brothers were scary to me in a way they never were before.
I began to really feel the weight of stigma associated with being a recovering addict. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a person who knows nothing about recovery meetings; someone who doesn’t understand the courageous honesty and work that is done in church basements when the recovery process begins. I worried how hearing that man on the radio could potentially affect the lives of others. I wondered if he had thought about the consequences of his actions; if he understood the magnitude of damage he may have caused with one phone call. Whether he understood the responsibility or not, he spoke for my entire recovery community that day.
We fight against stigma every day. We crawl out of holes labeled “Dirty Junkie,” “Crack Whore,” and worse. These labels, we like to think, come from people who do not understand addiction or the struggle of getting and staying clean. Don’t we experience enough shame and judgment? Do we really need to invite even more?
I couldn’t help but try to put myself in the shoes of listeners, and wonder.
How would I feel if my daughter was in a sober living facility in my town trying to save her life, and I heard that on the radio?
How would I have felt if I was one of those vulnerable young girls who recognized that voice? If I had been suffering with my addiction and contemplating a meeting, and I’d heard that the stereotype is true? Recovery groups are just hook-up spots. Would I have wanted to risk my reputation?
What if that radio comment detours just one woman in our town from attending a meeting and saving her life? A woman who is out there dying, who might one day be presented with an opportunity to start a new life in one of the dozens of sober living homes in our town.
Did he think about that??? Would it be worth the laugh he got? Was it worth lives?
Maybe he just invited sexual predators to our meetings; men looking to take advantage of the great number of women who are ready and willing. How are we supposed to feel safe?
Being a recovering addict is nothing to be ashamed of. Recovery is about so much more than simply putting down the drugs.
While I am not naive to the sexual behavior in my recovery community, I hate that it was the subject of public ridicule.
I know I can’t change these things, but I hate to give the public another reason to think of us as immoral people with no desire to change. Because the people I know from those meetings are extraordinary. There is recovery in our town, and there are many of us that are serious about our commitment to continued growth and change.
It makes me sick that such a clearly unhealthy person spoke for us. It makes me sad that he picked up that phone, with no regard for the sick and suffering addict who may need a safe place to land. It is my only hope that the strength of our groups will combat this unfortunate incident, and that gentleman will get the help he needs.
This post originally appeared in September, 2014.