Yesterday’s lunch was awkward. I’m attending training for my work down in Houston. Lunch was catered in by a local BBQ restaurant. Nothing quite like Texas BBQ!
Despite how tasty lunch was, the conversation turned south quickly. When I walked into the room where lunch was being served, I found a room full of peers talking about drug addicts. Unfortunately, the people in the room were not educated on the topic. Nor were they brimming with empathy.
The stereotypes were flying. So much of the discussion contained “those people” comments. All at once I felt alone, judged, fearful. The thing is, none of these people know about my drug addiction. None of them know about my recovery. None of them know Kent’s BIG SECRET.
Sure, the people in my company who need to know about my addiction are aware of it. Everyone from my boss all the way up to the owner of the company in Europe knows. They respect my privacy, my anonymity. They keep my BIG SECRET as though it were part of a sacred trust.
To them, I am simply a trusted employee who works as hard at my recovery as he does his job. To them, I am smart, successful, self-starting, dependable… basically, I am everything they look for in an employee. In their eyes, my addiction does not define me.
This group of my peers though, they don’t know about my addiction. They don’t know how close I came to losing it all. To them I’m a normal guy. I’m the guy with weird socks. I’m the rising star who is turning around his territory. I’m one of them.
So, hearing yesterday’s conversation was a stark reminder of the importance of anonymity. I wanted to jump in, to correct their misconceptions. I wanted to plead the case of the still suffering addict.
Instead, I retreated. I joined a small group of men eating in a separate room. A small group of men discussing their families, their travels, and their work.
I was quickly able to put the conversation from the other room behind me. The rest of lunch was enjoyable and free of such difficult conversation.
Honesty is one of the three core principles of my recovery. Through Narcotics Anonymous, by working the steps, I am learning to be honest. Honest with myself, and honest with others.
At the same time, I am also learning to be discreet. Honesty does not require that I tell all. It certainly doesn’t require that I jump into a conversation about addiction and try to change people’s hearts and minds by saying “look at me! Do I look like one of those people you are talking about? Do I look like a wasted life? Do I look like a drain on society?”
Those were the things I wanted to say. My retreat from the conversation left me feeling as though I had let down my fellow recovering addicts. Yet I knew that the timing was not right. Nothing I would have said was going to change minds.
At the end of the day, I felt that I had handled the situation correctly. There is nothing in recovery that compels a recovering addict to discuss his or her addiction outside the rooms. Even honesty does not require it. Anonymity, after all, is the foundation of our program.
Will there come a day when I speak openly about my addiction in such situations? Who knows? There may come a day when it seems appropriate. A day when it seems helpful or proper.
I am grateful for the program of Narcotics Anonymous. Without it, and more importantly, the people in it, I would not be where I am today. I would not be in recovery. Honesty and discernment would be nothing but vague concepts, memories from a distant past.
The message of NA applies to me: An addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. Part of that new way of life includes knowing that if and when the time is right, I can share my story. I can help others gain a better understanding of addiction. I can help show the world around me that we do recover.
Until that day, I will continue to work my program. Apply principles. Enjoy life!
Have a remarkable day!