One of the major obstacles to recovery is public stigma

The following is an excerpt from the Winston-Salem Journal editorial I wrote. Read the full article on Pastor, Father, Husband, Addict here.

Addict. On July 10th of 1999 I lost what felt like everything. Accused of felony crimes, arrested and defrocked, I awoke to the loss of my 15-year career as a pastor. I was unemployed and every family member and friend saw me with tenuous acceptance…and those were the very loving ones. It makes sense, really. I had been arrested for fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, I had lied to my family, parishioners and friends repeatedly about my opiate addiction. I had ‘borrowed’ money with no real way of paying it back. Being an addict means so much that is negative in our lives. Lies, stealing, distrust – we wrap addicts in all of these things. However, I would like to believe that that is only part of the truth.

One of the major obstacles to recovery is public stigma. The stigma comes, in part from the way we talk and think about recovery. Addict. Junkie. Druggie. These terms carry with them the Hollywood scenes and dramatic memories of the underbelly of alcoholism and addiction. These words cause us to ignore the people like myself who are living in recovery. These words and prejudices cause us to objectify the addict and the alcoholic. We can then easily place them in the box with the ‘town drunk’ as too often incurable. As a result, when I sought help, the help that was available to me existed only in church basements, amid bad coffee, smoke veiled doorways and broken stories of destruction and carnage...