Michael King Shares His Story of Addiction Recovery

It is my great pleasure to introduce Michael King, At Large Organizer for FacingAddiction.org‘s October 4, 2015 rally, happening on the National Mall in Washington D.C., on October 4, 2015. Michael has graciously agreed to share the story of his alcohol addiction and the recovery journey he’s taken as today’s Face of Recovery.

Why share?

There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction and addiction treatment and recovery. Yet those who have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences. Please meet Michael King – Today’s Face of Recovery.

How did your addiction start?

Michael King - At Large Organizer, FacingAddictionNow.org, shares his story of Recovery

Michael King – At Large Organizer, FacingAddiction.org, shares his story of Recovery, which began February 16, 2013

I began drinking at an early age, taking my first drank around 7, and my drinking became regular by my early teenage years. I was a kid who never felt like I fit in anywhere, and I struggled with anxiety and feelings of loneliness. The taunts of kids in schools would grate on me day in and day out, but the moment I found alcohol, all of that changed. It gave me all the confidence I’d never had. It made the bad times tolerable, and the good times even better. But the thoughts of drinking and escaping never left my mind, and it became an obsession. I’d shoplift booze from the local convenience store, hide it from my family and drinking alone became my regular getaway. By 15, I found myself embarking on an initial journey into recovery. It last 5 1/2 years, but truthfully, I never got truly honest with myself, and was only riddled with jealousy that, for my remaining high school years and the first three years of college, other young people could drink and I couldn’t. So I swore I’d try a drink on my 21st birthday. I ended up drinking two days early, and that set off a decade long journey that eventually brought me to a point where I feared living more than dying. What had started as nightly ritual of a few beers turned into, by the end, straight maintenance drinking, waking up to several shots of whiskey in my coffee, drinking beer all day and ending with more hard alcohol and marijuana at night. All day, every day. I discovered gambling along the way which undoubtedly sped my decline, as I eventually began embezzling money from my employer in order to get what I needed – my fix.

What was the turning point for you – the beginning of your addiction recovery?

I had lost it all – there was no money left of my own and barely any left to take. I couldn’t stop drinking, and I couldn’t get enough booze in me to kill the pain anymore. My life had become one big lie, as I’d been hiding the extent of my problems from everyone close to me. I spent four days lying, saying I had the flu, when in fact I was on a bender. I couldn’t stop. The terror was something I only wish nobody ever had to go through. On my final day, I had to confess to my then-wife that everything was gone, and I sat at the airport waiting for a flight east to my family. I just wanted to run away, and I had no idea what awaited me on the other end of it all. I never thought it was possible to reach that bottom…but alcoholism and compulsive gambling brought me down to my knees and finally, staring at all the wreckage, there were only two choices – let myself go for good, or ask for help.

What was your initial treatment?

At around five days sober, I checked into a 28 day inpatient treatment program at Lakeside Milam in Kirkland, Washington. That program saved my life. I needed to get away from the wreckage (I had confessed to an associate of my embezzlement, and on my third day of rehab, I read the front page news paper story saying that I was under investigation). Treatment forced me to see one thing crystal clear – my recovery had to be the most important thing in my life. They say whatever you put ahead of your recovery will be the second thing you lose. I learned that I had to get sober not for other people, or to look good in the face of my wreckage – that I had to get sober for myself. Most importantly, I had to learn that I was worth it.

Do you do anything differently, today?

I try to remain as vigilant in possible in the fellowship of recovery. Talking to other people who have faced similar things to me and hearing how they’ve moved through and handled the many challenges life presents sober is critical for me. I also do what I can for the newcomer. When I found recovery, I can’t even summarize how significant it was for me to talk to people, tell them what I’d done and then be told to, “keep coming back” and that “this too shall pass.” I owe that same warm heart to every new person who is seeking long term recovery. I try to remain physically active and in good shape, being mindful of my dietary choices, and to give myself the rest I need. In short, I try to avoid being hungry, angry, lonely and tired, as these four things can trigger an emotional spiral.

What is your life like, now, living in recovery?

With my career in the political arena at least temporarily done as a result of my actions, I went to work at a restaurant thanks to the kindness of an old and true friend who wanted to help me get back up on my feet. Going from a political player to bussing tables in a restaurant was humbling but so gratifying – both due to the physical exercise of the job as well as the warmth and kindness of the many new friends I made. I had long pondered how I might take my experience as a political organizer and merge it with my newfound passion for recovery. The brilliant documentary “The Anonymous People” was precisely the motivation I needed, and after reaching out to several key figures in the making of the film, I applied for and was then offered a position as an Organizer for UNITE to Face Addiction [aka FacingAddiction.org], a grassroots advocacy effort bringing logo-UTFA0402individuals, communities and organizations together to stand up for recovery on the National Mall in Washington DC on October 4, 2015. This will be a landmark event in the history of the recovery advocacy movement in America, and I’m honored to play a part in it.

Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction?

You’re worth it, plain and simple. There is a solution to your problem, and millions of people out there – 23 million in America, in fact – have found it. You can too.

How about anything you’d like to share with their family or friends?

They aren’t bad people who need to get good, they are sick people who need to get well. Be there for them, let them know that they are loved no matter what, and that there is a path of recovery that you’re willing to travel with them.

What is the best part about your recovery?

Today my life is honest and true. I don’t have nearly the material things I once did – but what I have today is a reflection in the mirror that I can look at and feel good about it. The greatest job of recovery is the ability I now have to feel good about the things I do, and the person that I am. I had never felt that before in my life. I get to spend time with my children and be emotionally invested. I get to care for others and be a good friend and a good son. And it’s all genuine and true. I owe all of that to recovery.

Thank you so very much, Michael, for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on 2+ years RECOVERY!

Today, Micahel is one of the organizers for the UNITE to Face Addiction rally happening on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on October 4, 2105. Click here to learn more.  He invites you to contact him via email at, mking@facingaddiction.org, or by phone, at 206-939-2844.

The Stigma of Addiction: a Mother’s Point of View

Marybeth Cichocki’s son, Matt, died of a drug overdose. Marybeth is determined to make a difference, meeting with the Governor of Delaware to talk about the need for insurance coverage for 90 days in residential treatment/rehab (vs the current 28 days); working with John Lehman of FARR (Florida Association of Recovery Residences) to help them in their efforts to regulate sober living homes in Florida; sharing her opinions on sober living homes in Florida via YouTube; as well as sharing her thoughts in articles like this one. Marybeth welcomes your emails, mmassey4@verizon.net, and phone calls, 302-561-4619.

And now…

The Stigma of Addiction: a Mother’s Point of View by Marybeth Cichocki

Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance or person.

My son was an addict. Addiction is by far the most stigmatized disease in this country.   I must say as the mother of an addict I had my own stigmatized view on who an addict was and I let my thinking be controlled by my misguided perception.

MaryBeth Chichocki is determined to make a difference having lost her son, Matt, to a drug overdose.

Marybeth Cichocki is determined to make a difference having lost her son, Matt, to a drug overdose.

My son wasn’t one of those people. He wasn’t dirty. He didn’t live on the street. He didn’t sell his body to get his supply of drugs. He didn’t shoot up in alleys or live under a bridge. Oh God, how foolish I was not to realize that my son was one of those people.

Denial got me through the tough times and allowed me to believe that my son had a problem, but was not an addict. My own stigma, like a set of blinders kept me protected from seeing the chaos life had become. My denial allowed my son to abuse his drugs in the loveliest of places. A safe, warm home with a mother who would believe the lies told and turned a blind eye to the horrific tragedy unfolding right before her.

My son didn’t have a problem. He was in control of his addiction. He was so good at convincing himself that he convinced me too. He wasn’t that addict. The one who steals and lies. The one who can’t hold a job because he showed up stoned to work. The one who lives at home and let’s his enabling mom pay his bills, buy his clothes, provide a roof and three meals a day without expecting anything in return. He was my loving son from a good family. I was a nurse, how could my son be an addict.

Being the mother of an addict is like being handed a life sentence for a crime you didn’t commit and probably never saw coming.

You constantly question what you did, didn’t do, or should have done. Life now becomes caught up in lies, excuses and isolation. I worked hard to keep our secret safe, locked away afraid of the stigma that would brand us forever.

Living with an adult addict is the most helpless, hopeless journey. You, the parent have no control. You scream, cry, bargain and threaten. There is no where to hide. Guilt somehow always found a way to seep into my mind. Was I a good mother, always looking for something to blame. I thought of a million excuses for behaviors. My stories conflicted with these behaviors now witnessed by family and friends. I never realized it then but I was battling the stigma as the blinders were slipping from my eyes.

The stigma I believed regarding addicts was kind when compared to the public’s view.

Once I tried to get help for my son I found most people really don’t care about addicts. They are unworthy, disposable, unproductive people. When I finally came clean and revealed my son’s addiction I was shocked at how many so called friends no longer called. How many dropped me from their invite list like I was a leper. After all no one wants to hear about someone’s addicted son. Too close for comfort. Not worthy of dinner conversation. If I told them my son had cancer I would have gotten support and offers of sympathy. Mothers of addicts get stares and whispers like we are dirty and unwanted, the elephant in the room that no one sees and would never acknowledge.

Experiencing the stigma first hand made me angry. It also made me realize that addiction as ugly as it is deserves to be treated as any other chronic disease.

I became an advocate for my son. Little did I know the medical community has it’s own bias against addicts. Finding a physician willing to treat an addict was like looking for a rose in six feet of snow. No one wanted the responsibility of having an addicted patient, except the pain management clinics who are responsible for turning their patients into the addicts now dependent on the pills they hand out like candy with no remorse in wrecking lives.

The insurance industry I found is also biased regarding the treatment of addiction. Most insurance providers allowable stay is 28 to 30 days. Really, how generous. For most addicts

28 days is like spitting in the ocean. At 28 days, my son was just starting to feel human. Yet he was told treatment was over. It’s time to move out of the safe, supportive environment and get thrown back into a society that will not support or hire an addict. Addicts are set up to fail. Relapses happen frequently. When I called for help I was told he had to wait months to be able to return to treatment. It was like I was speaking a foreign language. I felt so helpless, knowing I had to get him into a program quickly while he was agreeable and willing to go, before withdraw and panic set in.

In all my years of nursing I have never heard anyone ask a cancer patient what bad habits caused their disease. No one accusing them of smoking too much, drinking too much or eating unhealthy.

Yet, I had to defend my son’s disease. I was told that addiction is a self inflicted disease. The stigma strikes again. Addicts use because they want to get high loving the euphoria that only drugs provide. The public has no clue about altered brain chemistry and how your body turns against you after the first hit of heroine or a few days of opiates. I heard too many times that if my son wanted to stop he would. Yes, at first I believed that too. Until I watched him try to stop. It was a medical horror show. His body fighting his will to change. He didn’t want to live the life he was trapped in. Cravings consumed his mind and pain wracked his body when those craving were not met. It’s just too easy to blame the addict.

Treatment centers are run by professionals that need to step out of the comfort zone and fight for the addicts. Counselors need to have the power to ensure the addict receives adequate time in treatment. Insurance providers need to become educated. Research confirms allowable stays up to 90 days have been proven to decrease relapse events and help provide the addict necessary time to learn new coping skills, self esteem and to restore their bodies to a healthy state. Cancer patients are never told they will get 28 days of treatment, then good luck you’re out the door and if you get sick again you must wait for your insurance provider to approve another treatment admission.

Addiction is a life altering, chronic disease.

It needs to be treated with the same respect as any other disease. Addicts are dying everyday because no one gets it. These addicts are people just like you and me. Sons and daughters, husbands, fathers, mothers all deserving of life saving, affordable treatment that knows no time frame. My son lost his battle, but I will continue my fight. This stigma must come to an end before the next generation is forever lost.


To read Marybeth’s first article appearing on BreakingTheCycles.com, please click on this title, “A Mother’s Heartbreak.”

Soul Mates and Unconditional Love | Guest Darlene Lancer

Darlene Lancer's latest book, "Conquering Shame and Codependency, 8 Things to

Guest article by Darlene Lancer, Author of “Conquering Shame and Codependency, 8 Things to Freeing the True You”

Unconditional love – what is it and why is it so illusive for some and relatively easy for others?

Here to help us understand is a frequent guest author on BreakingTheCycles.com, Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT. Darlene is the author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You, and her latest eBook is titled, Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps

Darlene can be reached at info@darlenelancer.com or you may wish to follow her on Facebook or visit her website www.whatiscodependency.com

Soul Mates and Unconditional Love by Darlene Lancer

Are you searching for a soul mate or unconditional love? Your quest can set you on an impossible journey to find an ideal partner. The problem is twofold: Neither we, nor any relationship can ever achieve perfection, and often unconditional and conditional love are confused.

Usually, we yearn for unconditional love because we didn’t receive it in childhood and fail to give it to ourselves. Of all relationships, parental love, particularly maternal love, is the most enduring form of unconditional love. (In prior generations, paternal love was thought of as conditional.) But in fact, most parents withdraw their love when they’re over-stressed or when their children misbehave. To a child, even time-outs can feel like emotional abandonment. Thus rightly or wrongly, most parents at times only love their children conditionally.

Is Unconditional Love Possible?

Unlike romantic love, unconditional love does not seek pleasure or gratification.. Unconditional love is more a state of receptivity and allowing, which arises from our own “basic goodness,” says Trungpa Rimpoche. It’s the total acceptance of someone – a powerful energy emanating from the heart.

Love that is unconditional transcends time, place, behavior, and worldly concerns. We don’t decide whom we love, and sometimes don’t know why. The motives and reasons of the heart are unfathomable, writes Carson McCullers:

“The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. . . The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else – but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit.” The Ballad of the Sad Café (2005) p. 26.

McCullers explains that most of us prefer to love than be loved:

“ . . . the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself. It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many.” Id.

Ideally, the giving and receiving of unconditional love is a unitary experience. Couples experience this most frequently when falling in love. It also happens when someone fearlessly opens up to us in an intimate setting. It’s a being-to-being recognition of that which is unconditional in each of us, our humanity, as if to lovingly say, “Namaste,” meaning: “The God (or divine consciousness) within me salutes the God within you.” When we delight in another’s being-ness, boundaries may dissolve in what feels like spiritual experience. This allows energy to flow into places of resistance that surround our heart and can be deeply healing. It can happen during moments of vulnerability during therapy.

Yet, inevitably, these occurrences don’t last, and we return to our ordinary ego state – our conditioned self. We all have our preferences, idiosyncrasies, and particular tastes and needs, which have been conditioned by our upbringing, religion, society, and experiences. We also have limits about what we will and won’t accept in a relationship. When we love conditionally, it’s because we approve of our partner’s beliefs, needs, desires, and lifestyle. They match up with ours and give us comfort, companionship, and pleasure.

We’re fortunate to meet someone we can love conditionally and, at times, unconditionally. The combination of both forms of love in one relationship makes our attraction intense. It’s the closest we come to finding a soul mate.

Confusing Conditional and Unconditional Love

It causes stress and conflict when conditional and unconditional love don’t coexist¸ and frequently people tend to confuse the two. I’ve met spouses who were great companions and best friends, but divorced because their relationship marriage lacked the intimate connection of unconditional love. This can be helped in marriage counseling when individuals learn empathy and the language of intimacy. (See my blog, “Your Intimacy Index.”) But it can lead to frustration and unhappiness if we try to force our heart to love unconditionally when other aspects of the relationship are unacceptable or important needs go unmet.

On the other hand, some couples fight all the time, but stay together because of they share a deep unconditional love for each other. In couples counseling, they can learn to communicate in healthier, non-defensive ways that allow their love to flow. I’ve seen couples married over 40 years experience a second honeymoon that’s better than their first!

Other times, the problems in the relationship concern basic values or needs, and the couple, or one partner, decide to separate despite their love. It’s a mistake to believe that unconditional love means we should accept abuse, infidelity, addiction, or other problems we can’t tolerate. The saying, “Love is not enough” is accurate. The relationship ends, but the individuals often go on loving each other – even despite prior violence – which mystifies onlookers, but it’s okay. Closing our heart in self-protection only hurts us. It limits our joy and aliveness.


Dating stirs up unrealistic hopes of finding constant unconditional love. We’re liable to go from one lover to the next looking for our ideal soul mate. We may find someone who meets all of our conditions, yet doesn’t open our heart.

Or, unconditional love may naturally arise early on, but then we wonder if we can live with the other person day in and day out. Our conditional concerns and our struggles to accommodate each other’s needs and personal habits can eclipse the short-lived bliss of unconditional love. The reverse can happen, too. Sometimes, during the romantic phase of love, people commit to marriage, not knowing their partner well, nor realizing he or she lacks the necessary ingredients that are required to make a marriage work, such as cooperation, self-esteem, and communication and mutual problem-solving skills.

I don’t believe there is only soul mate destined for each of us. It might seem so, because the conditional and unconditional rarely overlap. According to researcher and psychologist Robert Firestone, “It is difficult to find individuals who are mature enough emotionally to manifest love on a consistent basis. It is even more problematic to accept love when one does receive it.” Firestone theorizes that couples try to maintain an ersatz version of their initial love through a “fantasy bond,” replaying romantic words and gestures that lack authenticity and vulnerability. Partners feel lonely and disconnected from each other, even if the marriage looks good to others.

Opening the Heart

Unconditional love isn’t a high ideal we need to achieve. Actually, striving after it removes us from the experience. It’s always present as the unconditioned part of us – our “pure, primordial presence,” writes Buddhist psychologist John Welwood. He believes that we can glimpse it through mindfulness meditation. By observing our breath, we become more present and can appreciate our basic goodness. In mediation and in therapy, we find those places we choose to hide from ourselves and others.

In trying to reform ourselves, we necessarily create inner conflict, which alienates us from our true self and self-acceptance. (See Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You) It reflects the belief that we can love ourselves provided we change. That is conditional love. It motivates us to seek unconditional love from others, when we need to give it to ourselves. The more we fight against ourselves, the more we constrict our hearts. Yet, it’s these disowned and unwanted parts of ourselves, which often give us the most problems, that are in the greatest need of our love and attention. Instead of self-judgment, exploration and empathy are necessary. People often enter therapy to change themselves, but hopefully come to accept themselves. Trying to change stems from shame and the premise that we’re inadequate and unlovable.


Shame causes problems in relationships, as explained in my book, Conquering Shame. Our self-defeating beliefs and defensive behavior patterns, which were developed in childhood to protect us from shame and emotional abandonment, prevent intimate connection in our adult relationships. Like compliments we deflect or distrust, we can only receive as much love as we believe we deserve – why McCullers and Firestone agree that receiving love can pose the biggest obstacle to having it. Healing internalized shame (See “What is Toxic Shame?”) is prerequisite to finding love. Moreover, healthy relationships necessarily demand the openness and honesty of assertive communication, which also requires self-esteem.

Relationships can provide a path to opening the frozen places in our hearts. Love can melt a closed heart. However, maintaining that openness demands courage. The struggle for intimacy challenges us to continually reveal ourselves. Just when we’re tempted to judge, attack, or withdraw, we open to our hurt and that of our partner. In doing so, we discover what we’re hiding, and triggers from our past yield opportunities to heal and embrace more of ourselves.

Healing happens not so much through acceptance by our partner, but in our own self-disclosure. This also happens in a therapeutic relationship. No one can accept all of us as we’d like it. Only we can do that. Our self-compassion (“10 Tips to Self-Love”) enables us to have compassion for others. When we can embrace our own imperfections, we’re more accepting of those in others. See “Relationship as a Spiritual Path.”

©Darlene Lancer 2015

National Substance Abuse Prevention Week | May 17-23

BreakingTheCycles.com celebrates National Substance Abuse Prevention Week“The Voice of One, the Power of All, ” is the theme of this year’s National Prevention Week supported by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency). The objective for this annual observance is to increase public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.


What You Can Do to Celebrate National Substance Abuse Prevention Week

As always SAMHSA provides a wide variety of things a person, group or agency can do to increase public awareness.

  • To begin, watch this video:

SAMHSA’s Suggested Resources – Will Help You in Your Effort to Increase Awareness of, and Action Around, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Issues

  • What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
    Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction Happens in the Best of Families
    Describes how alcohol and drug addiction affect the whole family. Explains how substance abuse treatment works, how family interventions can be a first step to recovery, and how to help children in families affected by alcohol abuse and drug abuse.
  • It’s Not Your Fault (NACoA)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, “It’s not your fault!” and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.
  • It Feels So Bad: It Doesn’t Have To
    Provides information about alcohol and drug addiction to children whose parents or friends’ parents might have substance abuse problems. Advises kids to take care of themselves by communicating about the problem and joining support groups such as Alateen.
  • After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
    Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative’s suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.
  • Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
    Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.

Change Addiction Now – United We C.A.N. | Steps of Change

More than 100 million Americans are affected by a loved one’s addiction, a brain disease that is still so tightly shrouded in secrecy and shame, making intervention, treatment and recovery difficult to find and pursue.

These 100 million Americans are the children, parents, siblings, grandparents, husbands, wives, in-laws and significant others of those whose brain disease has changed them and in the course of trying to help, changed their families, as well.

Thankfully, there’s an organization bringing the family voice to addiction and recovery – Change Addiction Now – United We C.A.N. 

Founded by ten women as a project of the Hub for Direct Community Action, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Change Addiction Now – United We C.A.N. aims to harness the enormous power of these 100 million family members to change the way addiction is treated, perceived, and legislated and to champion 21st Century research in the studies of brain, addiction, evidence-based treatment and evidence-based information for families.

Cindy Koumoutzis, Co-Founder of United We C.A.N. shares information on the annual "Steps of Change" event May 16, 2015.To that end, please find today’s guest post by Cindy Koumoutzis, Co-Founder of United We C.A.N., Regional Director, Ohio State Director and Chairperson of the second annual “Steps of Change” event on May 16

This event’s objective is to raise awareness, not only about the devastating disease of addiction, but about it’s devastating impacts on families, as well.


Families affected by drug addiction will participate in “Steps of Change” throughout the states to educate, empower and embrace those living with substance use disorder. They will bring attention to the shame and stigma associated with substance use disorder, while advocating for more evidence based treatment.

Each year, millions of people suffer from the disease of addiction and the majority of those who need treatment for do not receive it. Substance use disorders (SUD) are boundless; they affect every known race, demographic, and population regardless of existing socio-economic status. And statistics state that for each one affected by the disease, at least 5 family members are impacted. We know this number to be much higher.

Addiction is a brain disease. Scientists have defined the neuroscience, identified genetic components, developed effective medical treatments for substance use and alcohol disorder, and documented the chronic nature of this disorder with relapse risks and remission rates. Yet society’s misunderstanding of addiction is profound. Being a mom whose daughter has the disease of addiction, I have found it is not recognized as a disease, but more so a choice. A choice leading to overcrowded jails used as “treatment facilities.” I have found that Judges and parole officers make decisions regarding medications for their “offenders” with opioid use, promote inadequate 30 day treatment programs which only recycle the sick and federal disability laws do not consider the presence of severe SUD as sufficient criteria for receipt of disability benefits.

The shame and secrecy that blanket this disease of addiction is just as deadly as the disease itself. Stigma keeps families down, in, or away. Stigma takes away a family’s rights. Stigma on an individual level is part of what comprises SUD within a family. Over the past eight years, I have felt hopeless, worthless, and ashamed. Those thoughts and feelings intensify when during a hushed conversation I am reminded that I did something wrong, I had poor parenting skills or my discipline was lacking. Divorce. Financial difficulties. Worked too much. Didn’t work enough. Too many extra-curricular activities. Not enough. Never is it simply a disease.

Families are blamed for the choice of their child. We are quickly judged on our wrong behaviors. Enabling, Co-dependency and Leniency . And just as quickly told how to fix our child. Kick them out, let go, stop enabling, stop loving them to death and wait until they hit rock bottom. For many, this is death. No family should wait for this.

It is also interesting that our loved ones in recovery feel the need to defend the family due to previous shame and stigma. “I am in recovery. I came from a very good family. I had everything I needed. I was a great student and had lots of friends. There was a lot of love within my family and I had great times with my brothers and sisters. We were your average typical family.“

And lastly, words matter. Diseases have symptoms; people live with and manage these symptoms and our language should reflect this reality. My daughter who lives with a SUD is referred to as an “addict” or worse, a “junkie” far more than a “patient “or someone who has the “disease of addiction.” This wording conjures up a bad person who belongs in a jail cell, not someone worthy of receiving high quality medical care. Families and those living with a substance use disorder are boxed in by an outdated vocabulary that reflects the unfortunate view of individuals with SUD as being moral failures and criminals. At a time when SUD is finally beginning to come out of its darkness, now is the time to truly look at it through evidence based treatment — and that starts with stopping the shame, stigma and language. Only then can we help our children gain control over their illness and their lives and we as family members can begin to heal as well.


Change Addiction Now – United We CAN – 2014 “Steps of Change” Event

Yes, families impacted by substance use disorder face stigma and shame. We pay dearly for the disease of addiction. Financially, mentally, physically and most important, emotionally. And because of this, members of the national organization, Change Addiction Now (C.A.N.), are rallying across the country on Sunday May 16th at “Steps of Change” to help bring the family voice to addiction and recovery.

About Change Addiction Now – Steps of Change Event

State groups are holding Steps of Change events, which include a variety of activities including walks, runs, ceremonies, health fairs, and balloon releases. Each state’s program is different. Most groups will stage “Walk a Mile in my Shoes,” in which family members display a pair of shoes of those who continue to struggle or who have passed from the disease of addiction.

09e6465d3f7a9c9e9209964211f74ce0Steps of Change is a unified National effort to use the power of families affected by addiction to:
• Break the silence, the stigma and the shame
• Embrace evidence-based information and abandon outdated beliefs
• Show families affected by addiction that they are no longer alone

Each event is open to the public and everyone is encouraged to attend.

Change Addiction Now was started in 2014 by 10 mothers who met on Facebook. These women’s families were affected by substance use disorder. The group incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit and has already grown to more than 3,000 members in 18 state groups across the country

For more information, please visit our website or find us on Facebook. And to locate the Facebook page for your CAN state or one nearby, simply type CAN followed by the state.

Hope to see you on the steps – May 16th!