My name is Matthew Cohen. I am a person in long term recovery…and I refuse to be anonymous.
Why, when it seems to make more sense to put that dark part of my life behind me and simply move on. I mean, if my past is not supposed to define me, why would I want to stand as a representative of a people group who are largely still in the shadows, still dealing with stigma of the general view of “the addict?”
I guess the first questions to ask would be, who are we? Where do we come from?
Who is The Addict Anyway?
I am your mother.
I am your father
I am your brother.
I am your sister.
I am your….uncle, aunt, nephew… neighbor, coworker.
I’m the guy who carried your groceries to your car yesterday and I’m the doctor you have an appointment with next Tuesday.
Do you get where I am going with this?
People in recovery are amazing people. We come from all walks of life. It’s like night and day. The thing is, no matter how different we are we all have one thing in common… Addiction. And addiction plays no favorites. It affects all people groups and crosses all socioeconomic lines.
I believe the world needs to see us. This is one of the main reasons why I refuse to be anonymous. Standing with and building a strong recovery community and showing others that they can build strong, purposeful lives can drastically change a person in so many ways.
So, how is this accomplished? How do we build a recovery ready community?
Recovery Ready Communities
The first thing we can do is prevention work. I met Michael DeLeon who is working on a documentary called An American Epidemic: Kids are Dying. He told me about some of the work he is doing and I said, “Sign me up…What can I do?” Bringing positive role models into a school to educate young people about addiction can possibly stop the problem from where it is most common to start. I can’t really be anonymous and accomplish this. I can’t worry about the few who might judge me. I have to be more concerned with helping others.
I remember growing up never learning anything about addiction. Then again, if it were right in front of me I probably wouldn’t of took the time to listen or I might have just dismissed the idea of someone trying to tell me something for the simple fact of doing so. Now I am on the other side seeing life from a completely different perspective.
I wonder…How would I be able to reach the kind of kid that I was?
Some would say there is no answer. They’d like to think that some kids just can’t be reached. They might be right, but I am not willing to let the answer be that easy. What if someone who had come through my kind of pain tried to reach me?
I’d like to think that if I had a good role model outside of my own family growing up I would’ve had a better chance at understanding the world more clearly. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this because I need something or someone to blame. I take full responsibility for myself and all my actions in my life, —good, bad, and indifferent. What I am simply saying is that more positive role models to look up to would be a great thing to have if you were a lost kid like I was. Looking back, I can name a few people who if they grabbed my attention at the right time I would of followed them.
When I watched the documentary The Anonymous People it changed my life because I never even knew there were things like recovery high schools and collegiate recovery programs. What an amazing thing to have in our communities. Talk about giving someone a real chance to say yes to life and opening their world up to something so amazing. Recovery community centers are opening up all over the country providing a safe place to serve those who seek or are in recovery.
Standing Proud With YPR
I decided to take action and become and advocate with Young People in Recovery (YPR) because they do all the things I just spoke about and more. I am proud to stand in recovery. It was no secret when I was drinking and it is definitely no secret that I am sober. I am not ashamed to tell people that my name is Matthew Cohen and I am a person in long term recovery.
YPR supports people in the areas of education, employment, housing, and access to treatment by working hard to build relationships to create recovery ready communities.
The cool thing about it is you don’t have to be in recovery to help people in recovery.
For example, if we have people building business relationships in our communities to find recovery friendly employers, both people win. We are providing a person in recovery with an opportunity but we are also giving an employer the chance to make a difference in someone’s life. A person given a chance to work in early recovery builds their self concept, self esteem, and self confidence. Why wouldn’t you want to help someone gain that? You could apply the same with education. It’s all about empowering individuals and all of these things help people maintain their sobriety and lives.
What I have seen all too much is this stigma, this discrimination towards people in recovery. It makes me sick to my stomach. How could you tell someone they can’t have a job, a place to live, or a chance at an education because somehow you have this idea that if a person has an addiction they’re a bad person?
If you don’t like someone that’s your business, but why deny them a chance at life?
You wouldn’t tell someone in a wheelchair that they can’t work at your establishment because they can’t walk. That person will probably work harder than other people you have employed before. You can say the same thing about someone in recovery.
I could go on forever, but I’ll leave you with this.
To the recovery community: So many people have been advocating for so long and it amazes me that I’m just first hearing about it. I’m very passionate about my recovery and if I could go to the top of a mountain and yell how awesome recovery is even on my worst day so that everyone could hear me… I would do it immediately. But it’s not up to me alone. It’s up to all of us together to be a voice. We need you.
To non-addicts supporting the recovery community: You’re an amazing group of people to support us, believe in us and rally around us when the rest of the world still needs to learn how amazing we are and all the great things that can happen when everyone comes together. Thank you.
RECOVERY IS COOL… DON’T YOU EVER FORGET THAT.
And you don’t have to hide it if you don’t want to.
“There is a bit of of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us; but we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here.” —Anonymous
Editorial Note: If you want to watch the movie, The Anonymous People, it cycles through Netflix.