Sober world travel! In San Sebastian, Spain, 2011

So earlier today I had a conversation with someone about addiction & recovery and it really reminded me of how difficult it is for anyone to face their addiction(s) and in general, how scary it is (for the average punter) to talk about their experiences in recovery.  Especially in Ireland.  Unlike The States, where when I assert that I am a recovering alcoholic and people respond positively ("Oh, wow, that's great!", "Good for you!", etc.) when I come-out to people in Ireland the response I get is typically one of abject fear, judgement & resentment.  People will usually take a step back from me because you know, the alcoholism.  ITS CATCHING.  Or they'll automatically assume they're morally superior to me and/or I'm a vulnerable wreck to be pitied.  Nopers.  Or they'll begrudge me for leaving The Team.  Its a small minority of people I call friends who accept me for who I am without judgement and applaud/support the work I've done.

And its funny because in Ireland we have a society that is much more accepting of functioning alcoholics than I have found the US to be.  But we're really not accepting of people who meet their addiction head-on and come out the other side.  Why is that? In other parts of the world, "the general public’s view of these issues has gone from defining addictions as a problem of willpower to more of a disease model"  but here it seems general society's view of addiction is that its a willpower and moral failing.  Why is that?

Exploring the world sober - Pompeii, Jan 2013

I find it ironic that as a recovering alcoholic I can be treated with more skepticism than someone who's bucketing back booze on a regular basis.  Including at Dáil Éireann.  Apparently...if you don't admit it, its not a problem.  Its not all negative though, I have found over the years (1992 - 2014) that our relationship with alcohol is changing and improving (I think) for the better although we still have a massive problem with binge drinking.  Alcohol Action Ireland alleges that over half the adults in Ireland who drink have a "harmful pattern of drinking".  Half of all adult drinkers in the country.  That's over 1.4 million people, folks. Three people die in Ireland every day due to an alcohol related illness.  That's over 1,000 every year.  1,200 new cases of cancer are attributable to drink abuse every year. To put that into perspective, less than 200 people died in road accidents in 2013,  659 people died of breast cancer and 1,693 of lung cancer in 2010. There is also a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and suicide, one which we seem unable to really look at.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

And that's just alcohol.  That amount doesn't include deaths from legal or illegal drugs.  Yes, legal drugs, as in those acquired from a GP.  Just because a drug is prescribed doesn't protect someone from forming an addiction to it. Some people tell themselves that because they have a prescription for something, they can't become an addict. People, please. Pill addicts can have stronger denial built around their addiction. And its an area of drug abuse which appears to be booming,  'It is much easier to get these drugs from a GP, although a lot are available on the street, and even though there is legislation for GPs for best practice in prescribing these, there is a greater chance of over-prescribing not being investigated in affluent areas.' .  Living in a middle class neighborhood and getting your drugs from a GP does not safe-guard you from being an addict.

So if you know someone who's come through the other side and lived to tell the tale, whether its confronting addiction, mental health issues or another difficult issue society recoils from, consider that they might actually be stronger than you.  And the life they have now? Possibly better than yours.

(And…there's some damn fine humour in recovery.)


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