I tried and failed to get sober many times. I’d get through a couple of days, sometimes a week, and then the stigma would get to me. I couldn’t bear the thought of never having another drop of alcohol. Of being cast as an outsider. Of being judged as deeply flawed and damaged.
So I kept drinking in the shadows. No one knew I was getting drunk day after day. I was like a ninja with my drinking, hiding it from my wife, my kids, from everyone, all while my life was teetering on the edge of collapse.
I had to check into treatment to get on the right path. By working my finely tuned program, I'm closing in on 500 days of sobriety. But I long for a day when fewer will need to go through rehab to get clean and stay clean. To get there, we as a society need to have an honest conversation about addiction and mental illness.
People still get eerily quiet when I bring up my sobriety. I’m on rock-solid ground today, so the uncomfortable silence isn't a trigger. A year ago, it would have been a different story. I probably would have decided “Yep, I’m a lost cause,” and driven straight to the liquor store.
September is National Recovery Month, so from society’s perspective, it’s a little more OK for me to talk about all this. But an open and honest conversation needs to be ongoing.
If you’re affected by addiction and mental illness, there’s a good chance no one will know -- unless you speak up.
I’m Christopher Heimerman, and that’s my perspective.