Reality Of Addiction: One Man’s Effort To Tear Down The Stigma

Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is.  Tim O’Brien

Journal writing as a tool of recovery

Last summer we wrote about a new way to share one’s story concerning their struggle with addiction and how their story can change someone else’ story of addiction and recovery. Sharing your story is one of the basic tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Certain AA meetings are specifically designated as a speaker meeting which allows one person to share their experience, strength and hope to help others seeking recovery from alcoholism…addiction.

Everyone has a story. Articulating one’s story can take different roads. Some people will write down their story so as to not forget a single detail. It is often suggested that those just beginning recovery keep a private journal – writing their day to day story helps to get their feelings out. When those in recovery take time to reread their journal they can see how far they have come and even recognize that they want to keep moving forward in their recovery.

Charles Gillispie

Charles Gillispie, MFA, LISAC – a program specialist here at Cottonwood Tucson explains journal writing:

Journal writing, as a recovery tool, provides a number of advantages. First of all, the journal is immediately available to us, whenever we need it. As we practice therapeutic journal writing, we can develop much needed skills in mood management and regulation. Hopefully, as we become proficient in the use of specific structures, we will discover important information about our barriers to recovery. This material when uncovered, can deepen and enrich the counseling experience for both clients and counselors. Perhaps most importantly, the therapeutic journal can become our record of progress in recovery.

Photographer Graham MacIndoe kept a photo journal of his battle with heroin addiction

Graham MacIndoe is a well known and respected photographer. Mr. MacIndoe is also a recovering heroin addict. He got clean in 2010 while spending four months as an inmate in Rikers Island. If you have ever been a fan of the television Law and Order franchise, then you’ve heard of Rikers Island. Interestingly, before finding himself locked up at Rikers, MacIndoe was so isolated and filled with shame he decided to take candid self-portraits everyday while he was in the depths of his heroin addiction.

In February 2014, New York Magazine featured an article My Addiction, Through My Eyes: A Conversation With Graham MacIndoe, by Susan Stellin. It is a powerful, straightforward, deeply moving account (warning: complete with heart wrenching graphic photographs) which tells Mr. MacIndoe’s story.

HUFFPOST LIVE airs an interview with Graham MacIndoe and Susan Stellin

On March 12, 2014, Ricky Camilleri of HUFFPOST LIVE sat down to talk with Graham and Susan. They candidly discussed the “reality of addiction and how to help addicts.”

You can watch the interview here.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Some final thoughts…

Mr. MacIndoe’s story and the way he chose to tell it with “selfies” is and should be a conversation starter. Every day you will hear parents, spouses, siblings, co-workers, neighbors or friends exclaim “we had no idea” what the disease of addiction looked like. This often happens because the addict is afraid to open up, they isolate themselves, keeping their world secret from everyone who loves and cares about them. The addict feels the stigma that society has wrapped them in. Nobody wants to talk about addiction.

Often the first time the conversation starts is at a bail hearing, a trip to the emergency room in the middle of the night…or when the addict seeks treatment, lets go and allows their loved ones into their story. Mr. MacIndoe’s goal in releasing his photos to the public was to help to tear down the stigma.

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