Recovering addicts such as University of Maine law student, Chris Poulos, seem to be borrowing a page from the Gay Movement. Those with alternate sexual orientations outed themselves to achieve equal rights - and social acceptance. Their success has become a model for legal and cultural change.
In The Washington Post, Lenny Bernstein tells Poulos' story of addiction and his decision to veer from the code of being anonymous among those in recovery.
Since its start 80 years ago, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has as one of its 12 traditions that members should remain anonymous in terms of the media. That was instituted to protect both the recovering person who could get drunk on public attention and the organization which could look like a loser if members relapsed.
Currently, lots about AA is under attack. The Atlantic, for example, published an influential rant against its fundamentals.
For those in AA who treat its 12 traditions as a kind of "divine truth," Poulos' stance represents heresy. And, although AA's success rate in sustained sobriety is low, some do get and stay clean through the program. What Poulos and others are now doing can shake their faith in the program. And, you bet, they can relapse.
The reality is that neither science nor those in recovery know a lot about addiction. It's a force field that takes us over. The best most of us can do is trade off a destructive addiction as in boozing to a less-harmful one like compulsively attending AA meetings.
However, by doing that we can wind up closed systems. So many "earth people," that is, those not needing recovery, chastised me for what seemed to them to be my excessive involvement in AA. I have since stopped that.
My new addiction is compulsively deconstructing aging on my syndicated over-50 blog. I have lost all hope of not being addicted, an existential state I have been in since high school when my first serious boyfriend dumped me. Yes, I feel doomed to chase whatever will stop the pain, at least for the moment.
The bottom line in going public is, as in the gay movement, to generate the political clout to change the status quo in addiction. For example, shouldn't judges be sentencing drunk drivers to rehab, not jail? There should be tons more money poured into research about addiction. And why the heck is our society so alcohol-centric? When I was employed full-time, I had to attend so many work-related social events in which the alcohol flowed. I didn't indulge. But my brand probably took a hit because I was so wooden.
What Poulos is embarking on is yet another political and cultural experiment in America. Could we addicts wind up not being second-class citizens? I wouldn't bet on that any time soon.