I have been sober for nearly 6 years and have had my fair share of bullying throughout my life. Part of me is pretty grateful that we didn’t have internet exchanges like we do today when I was growing up – middle school and high school was tough enough. I always felt different and not really sure why. It wasn’t until I became an alcoholic at the young age of 21 that I realized why I didn’t feel like other people. I was suffering from a brain disease that many people think is a choice.
You see, I suffer from what is known as alcoholism. Alcoholism is a brain disease that affects both the mind and body, and many people believe it’s a choice. When I tried reaching out for real help from doctors and therapists, I was told to “just stop drinking”. I tried that and it didn’t work. I was left desperate, scared, confused, and more importantly, alone.
It wasn’t until I learned through trial and error (which I would not recommend for anyone to do) that I discovered I didn’t lack willpower – I lacked the proper treatment for my disease. It took some time for me to open up about me being alcoholic, and the ensuing ridicule I received from people who did not believe I had a disease really hurt. I started to keep quiet about my alcoholism because I didn’t want to be made fun of, bullied, or thought of as a bad person. That would all change when I made a decision to come out publicly that I was a person in long-term recovery.
When I first got sober, I knew I wanted to be a part of the treatment industry in hopes that I could help bridge that gap from disease to treatment. Five years ago, I came to work for The Watershed. I have been attacked in various ways on social media for being an alcoholic in recovery, yet I continue to speak up. Why?
I continue to speak up because there are those who are suffering in silence and have no voice. I speak up because I believe the stigma of who and what an alcoholic is, needs to be smashed. I speak up because bullying in real life is not okay and neither is cyber-bullying.
This brings me to my point – what you think or say about me is none of my business, but I will talk about my recovery anyway, in hopes of helping others.
Recently, I joined Yik Yak, an anonymous twitter-like chat app, and shared simply that I love being sober. Take a look at how I was treated!
Now, I have come a long way in my recovery, and this honestly does not affect me one way or another. I simply see it as some uninformed person who doesn’t understand alcoholism, or someone who thinks they’re just playing around for fun. Either way, I think about how many addicts and alcoholics are out there, who are just being bullied on and off line about having a disease; being called weak, pathetic, or even a no-good junkie.
The conversation ended with this person telling me to relapse, which to an alcoholic means certain death. Why does this person think this is acceptable? Why is it okay to bully others because they have a disease, or because they made a decision to live a sober life?
Bullying may never fully go away, but if we don’t talk about it and share our experience, we will never come close to breaking the stigma of addiction and alcoholism. This is why I proudly say I am an alcoholic in long-term recovery. I am not weak! I will take your verbal beatings as a sign of your ignorance, and continue to share my story so others do not have to suffer alone and in silence. Addicts and alcoholics are people too, and we deserve to be treated fairly!
Have you been bullied over your recovery? Tell me about it!Tags: bully, cyberbully, Social Media, Watershed Ashling, workplace bullying