My name is Fay and I’m a recovering alcoholic. I grew up in the Bay Area and went to college, got a masters, married, raised kids, and built my career. During most of that time, alcohol and drugs were my fuel.

I started using as a teenager when my brother died. That didn’t make me an alcoholic. It was just the reason I turned to drugs and alcohol. I felt uncomfortable, lonely, and different. Drinking and drugging changed that. Partying meant no pain and not being alone. I spent most of those years buzzed, but the good grades, sports, leadership positions, and promotions – they were proof that life was on-track.

In college, I discovered most people don’t blackout when they drink. But, alcohol and drugs were a social norm and part of the fun. And I fit right in.

Two decades later, they stopped working for me. I began to feel a bit insane. I couldn’t stop using and wouldn’t ask for help. So I divorced, moved, got in better shape, changed jobs, cut out sugar and flour. Yet, the insanity was I couldn’t cut out drinking.

Nine years ago this week, I got sober. The journey back to life has been incredible. I have ups and downs, of course, but I no longer seek escape through alcohol or drugs. Yet so many friends didn’t understand why I stopped.

Addiction is isolating, insanity-making, debilitating, and goes largely untreated due to stigma, ignorance and shame. Those of us who get sober stay silent to avoid judgment. But by sharing our stories we can change understanding.

Addiction is not a choice, moral failing, or sign of weakness. And recovery can look like you and me. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the Bay Area living successfully in recovery, yet they are virtually invisible.

Today, I am using my voice to call attention to the health, happiness and healing possible in recovery. I know this. My life is proof. Its time to end shame and open up about recovery.

With a Perspective, I’m Fay Zenoff.

Fay Zenoff is executive director of a San Francisco nonprofit working to erase the stigma of addiction and promote the benefits of recovery.

Recovery 10 October,2016Amanda Font

  • Tom

    Fay – thanks for stepping forward to call attention to a global epidemic that is too often dealt with in shame and isolation. Ironically, I heard your commentary while on my way to an AA meeting. Before I got sober five years ago I, too, had all the trappings of success, until my drinking cost me my family, my freedom, and my self-respect. Help is available to anyone who wants it, and if we can provide a living example of recovery we can all give hope to the hopeless trapped by addiction.

  • Jennifer

    Fay, that gave me chills all over my body. Every single word was perfect. I loved how you you were factual about the addiction part of your story and not over-dramatic. I believe that helps those who don’t have experience with addiction listen. I am a sober woman as well, and spoke up in public for the first time about a year ago when my rabbi asked me to share my journey with our congregation as part of our Mental Health Initiative, whose mission is to end the stigma associated with mental health and addiction. As scary as it was at the time, I chose to speak up because I realized that we cannot end the stigma if we remain silent. As you so eloquently put it, we can change understanding by sharing our stories. We can break down the barriers of perception and begin to create a world of acceptance and understanding. With strong, intelligent, well-spoken and brave leaders like you, I believe we’ll see a future where alcoholics don’t have to live in fear, and where we can openly share our experience, strength and hope with our communities at large. Thank you for sharing your voice. I am inspired!

  • Lisa

    I am the mother of a 24 year-old alcoholic. For many years, shame and misinformation about addiction kept me in the dark, compounding my suffering. I was insane until I accepted that addiction is a family disease. I made it my mission to learn everything about it, and to face my role in it. Knowledge is power, and shame no longer has a hold on me. I am in recovery, and my dear one is, too. Thank you, Fay, for opening the blinds. Your approach to will empower us all.

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