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.