The 12 Step Stigma – Lepers Among Lepers

Lori SullivanPost by Lori Sullivan, Co-Founder Rockers In Recovery;

Many of us in the recovery world are trying to change the stigma regarding people with addiction to the “normal” people in the world who don’t understand, yet we still have the stigma in our own RECOVERY COMMUNITIES!!

Here I am after just celebrating 16 years of recovery and I can say I am amazed…but not in a good way. What I have seen in the last several years within the recovery communities makes me sick. People who have taken away from what the founding members of AA created by putting in their own ideals and just plain watering down what is considered by many a “God inspired” thing.

Just yesterday I saw where a newcomer posted on FB how they didn’t understand how a meeting room could deny a person a AA Big Book because she was a relapser and how she needed to pay for it. There were of course the people trying to be funny. One person who responded with “maybe she collects them to sell”…. Really folks? This is a woman that keeps trying to get recovery by coming back time after time only to be told “sorry you’re a relapser so you’ll have to pay for your book”. Really? This is a woman screaming for help…not just asking. Why do I say this? Because it takes REAL courage to come back to some of the rooms of today because of the people in it. It took real courage for this woman to ask for a book. No wonder people who are struggling with addiction either give up and continue to use till they die or they just commit suicide.

6th Annual - Love of Recovery Music FestivalI was a chronic relapser at one point and I don’t forget that “There only by the grace of God could go I”. I had experienced peoples comments like “oh your back…what cha add another minute to your story?” Luckily I just kept trying REGARDLESS OF WHAT SOME PEOPLE SAID and with God’s help and the help of some really good people in the program. Here I am today a Co-founder of an organization that was created to help people and to show them (especially the young people) that recovery is possible regardless of where you come from, and it can be fun, not the doom and gloom that I thought it was when I attended my first AA meeting at the ripe age of 20 years. My first drink was at twelve and my first of many alcohol related blackouts was at age 15. That was 1978 and I remember that meeting clear as a bell today. It was a room filled with all older people passing a microphone around (I was very shy without my liquid courage) so I wanted nothing to do with that. I sat till the end meeting as many shared their experience, strength, and hope. After the meeting some people gave me a Big Book and told me to come back. Very kind people. But I wasn’t ready I was only there to appease my parents so they wouldn’t throw me out of their house. So on I went trying controlled drinking and using on and off for years at times achieving at times 22 months or 2 ½ years before relapsing. Many times when I relapsed I felt like a rubber band that snapped. Never seeing it coming. I didn’t plan it…but it still kept happening. I experienced the jails and institutions. This went on till September 14, 1999. They say some a sicker than others and I was one of them. I was homeless many times over a four year period at one point in my life, and stayed out there because I found that at least I wasn’t being judged by those around me.

Maybe this is why I’m for the underdogs.The people who relapse over and over but still keep trying. That in its self takes real courage. See I was taught that at anytime, anywhere if a hand reaches out…I AM RESPONSIBLE. I always say “where there is breath there is hope”. What can I do to help them not give up? Trust me I’ve been hurt in this belief many times and in many ways. I’ve even fallen short myself because of my hurt and anger. But God always has brought me back to what I believe. The belief is no matter what don’t give up on a fellow human being and I will continue to stand on this belief because I know deep down there is good in most human beings. I have had to learn to separate the addiction (the dark side) and all the sick behaviors that go with it, for the human being filled with the goodness that GOD created. GOD doesn’t make junk.

RIR-All-Star-Band1  Yes, some are sicker than others, and trust me it is both outside and INSIDE the rooms of recovery TODAY. I have seen the sickest of the sick who state they are in “long term recovery” yet judge people who were in recovery and because they relapsed (usually from mental, physical, or spiritual issues or all the above) and the insanity that comes with it. They stand in judgement of that person’s character while they were using, or while in a dry drunk. Or worse yet, the person has found his or hers recovery again (by the Grace of God) and these people continue to kill them with their tongues and their better than thou attitudes, agendas and egos. Even more concerning is some of them are now treatment centers owners and government employees in long term recovery payed to help others with addiction, SCARY. I guess they have forgotten where they came from or they never experienced a really low bottom or maybe their recovery isn’t as solid as one would think. I would think that with long term recovery there would also be some maturity, not the behaviors of grade school or high school students…talking about a person to their clones’ to persuade others to not like this person or that person and if they do then they can’t associate with them OR it would be a conflict of interest! What?? A conflict of whose interest? If that’s what the long term recovery has made them (sickos filled with agendas, ego’s and afraid of the relapser) then it’s no wonder people stay away from the rooms of recovery after they relapse. Especially the ones that had obtained long term recovery and then relapsed. He or she are the ones that just end up killing themselves sometimes quickly sometimes slowly over the sick attitudes and behaviors of some of the people IN RECOVERY!! It’s so sad. I guess that’s why there are those special sponsors that take on the challenge of a chronic relapser.

Then you have the people who put a time frame on a person’s recovery with things like I’m a person in “Long Term Recovery” or “sorry but you can’t share because you don’t have enough time” must be a six months or year before you can share.  No sorry you can’t join this recovery committee you don’t have enough time. Where did that come from? Who am I to put a time limit on when someone can carry a message of hope and what might be THEIR purpose to stay?

RIR Music FestWhere would we be today if the founders of AA (Bill Wilson and Bob Smith) and the founding members had the attitudes of today? I can tell you…there wouldn’t have been anything. Period. Just what they already had, jails, institutions, and inevitably DEATH. If someone wanted help, they got them through the steps as quickly as possible many in a day! Then out the door to help another. They never gave up on the sick and suffering inside and outside the rooms and that included the families. I have never heard of them excluding someone who relapsed. Back then they would pay that person a call to see how they were doing (in person) and see if they could help. They didn’t wait for the person to call them when they were ready. But if the person wasn’t ready they prayed for them, and then wasted no time working with another, because they didn’t want to spoil a future opportunity if it presented itself at later date. Hey they at least planted the seed of HOPE even if it’s a mustard seed.

All I can say is if you don’t have something nice to say then say nothing at all. Something most of us learned as children…words hurt and words can Kill. People who do this in recovery only show me that they might not have had a drink or drug in quite some time, but they truly aren’t practicing the spiritual principles that was freely given to them.

In closing I want to say that I thank all the good people I have met during my recovery journey. You have been instrumental in my personal recovery as well as helping me carry the message of hope (without judgement) in my business. You are all winners in my book because you believe as I do that we all have to work together for the common goal to help others afflicted with the disease of addiction regardless of who they are and where they’ve been. For all the others I leave them to God and pray that they don’t kill someone.

God Bless us all as we trudge this happy road of recovery!

Lori Sullivan


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