Blowing my own anonymity

The same week I finally got around to watching The Anonymous People (on Netflix streaming, thanks for the heads up, Amy!),  I had the opportunity to write something for a new blog feature The Fix is running. I could have used a pseudonym and shadowy picture, but it didn’t feel right after watching so many give convincing arguments for the need to remove the shame and stigma of addiction.

When I first started this blog, it hardly mattered that I didn’t post a picture or use my real name because no one was reading. Around the time when I started to interact more with other sober bloggers and wondered what they looked like – did they look like neighbors, friends, family… you know, like me? – I put up a photo as nonchalantly as I could and waited for the fallout, only to find none.

I’ve used my first name only up to this point for a number of reasons. And while my recovery feels like a sacred, private affair, it also feels wrong to keep it hidden. I am not ashamed of being in recovery.

These are some of the fears I have about being open about my recovery.

What will my family think?

My husband is the one who said “go for it” without hesitation when I told him I was thinking about using my real name on The Fix, so I’m not concerned about ruffling his feathers. In general, I wish I had more of his sense of fuck it when it comes to what other people think. It’s pretty liberating to just be yourself. But I don’t want to bring embarrassment or shame to my family. Let’s think about this for a moment, though. What is shameful about being sober and a better parent and employee and person in general? What is shameful about seeking a solution to a serious problem?

What will my future employer think?

There is no hiding thanks to the almighty power of Google, so I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that untreated alcoholism cost the US workforce $134 BILLION in 1998 due to lost productivity from alcohol-related deaths and disabilities. Over 15% of US workers reported showing up to work impaired and 9% reported being hungover at work, the latter of which seems pretty low based on my own informal research.

What will the neighbors/other parents/mailman think?

This is a mixed bag. There will be some who think getting sober is a brave, wise decision. Maybe they too will have family in recovery, which is likely considering addiction affects two-thirds of US households. Or maybe some will think I’m weak or flawed or making too much of nothing. I’ll never forget a haunting line in True Detective where a reverend said (to an alcoholic) “It’s kind of hard to trust a man who can’t trust himself with a beer.” Some people think this way and it isn’t my job to change their mind.

I do feel it’s important to show others that people in recovery look like everybody else. We’re quietly going about getting help and struggling some days and getting stronger in the process. When I drank and struggled secretively, it made little sense because help was there all along in the form of recovery meetings, therapy, online support and more. Hiding my recovery feels even stranger.

I’m not suggesting we all march into work and announce our sobriety or wear matching jackets to more easily identify as sober brethren. There is no shame in keeping sobriety private and sacred if that feels right to you. No one should put their sobriety or personal livelihood in jeopardy by speaking out. There are ways to speak candidly about being in recovery for those in 12-step programs, but I think more often the fear is for how others will see us because misunderstanding and stigma towards addiction feels too big. That same stigma keeps people like us from getting help every day.

I am in a comfortable place thanks to my sobriety, living a life far better than I could have imagined. There is no shame here, only gratitude.

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49 thoughts on “Blowing my own anonymity

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  1. Great article! It inspires me to try running! It’s something I’ve also thought more and more of while reading sober blogs. Nice work! On the the running, the writing, and the sobriety!

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  2. Absolutely wonderful. I’ve tried running, but at my age the knees just don’t want to do it. Walking is my forte. Kudos to you for being a beautiful face and name for sober blogs and recovery.
    Sharon

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  3. Great post. I also really enjoyed The Anonymous People, getting me to think about the whole anonymity thing. I think you captured the reality quite well. Not being anonymous may not work for everyone, but a clear reflection on the rationale often demonstrates the rationale behind anonymity just does not make sense. Plus, as I have often heard, we never worried about anonymity when we are out getting wasted all of the time. Just not doing that anymore is going to key folks into something that is different.

    Great piece over at The Fix as well. Congratulations!

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  4. Kristen, you’re famous!!!! What a fabulous post, and I am so impressed you are guest blogging on The Fix!!!!

    I have not yet seen the documentary, but I plan to in the next 2 weeks (and dammit, I want Netflix!). This is an interesting topic, and one I’m not sure I’ve got a comfortable answer to for myself. Plenty of people in my life know, but there are still plenty who don’t, and it terrifies me to think about telling them. Parents of kids’ friends and future employers are at the top of the list, but you’ve given some compelling reasons to worry less about this stuff.

    I will be checking back into this blog to see other comments, great, provocative topic!

    And I love the comparison of the first and last 5K (I feel famous by association!) 🙂

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    1. I’m using my 15 minutes of fame to point out I’m mediocre at sports, which is so like me. I like that word …compelling. I just couldn’t think of a compelling reason to use a pseudonym.

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  5. I love seeing all these beautiful, smart people in recovery. It totally blows away the stereotypical image that is out there. Even though my family and friends know that I’ve given up alcohol I’m still not honest about it. They all think it’s a passing phase. I don’t label myself as an alcoholic in front of them. It is ridiculous as every one of them has probably seen me do or say something stupid. It’s something I’m going to try to work on.

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    1. Your blog handle says it all…one day at a time. It took awhile for me to feel comfortable opening up to friends and family about why I wasn’t drinking. I still decide how much to say based on the moment. I listen to my gut and usually trust it. No rush. You’re sober. You’re doing beautifully.

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  6. No matching jackets? That’s it. I’m out. Kristen, I struggled with all those reasons to stay anonymous too. For me, being open about my recovery is my way of not allowing anyone to use it against me. There’s a big difference between privacy and secrets and even though I blog, I still keep plenty private. I just don’t want my recovery to be a secret. I love the article and love that you’re voice is out there on a big site! Congratulations!

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    1. Haha! I love that you commented on the jackets. You’re the best. Ok, we can get jackets. They should probably be Members Only jackets and not cheap knock offs like my parents bought me in 5th grade. Not cool.

      I love how openly you’ve always worn your sobriety. When I feel like this is such a big deal and get scared, I remind myself of those like you who own it. It’s bigger than me, it’s for a larger purpose.

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  7. Congrats Kristen! Very cool that you go published in The Fix! Woot woot!

    I loved the movie, it was very moving and inspiring. Currently, I am only anonymous in the rooms, and that’s because I respect the traditions. Otherwise I don’t feel that I need it anymore, though I have to say that in the beginning it was necessary, so that I could build up trust. And I still believe that this, is why it’s important with on the rooms.

    I too feel that it’s important to show others what recovery looks like so that more people still suffering are more open to getting help.

    Also, I think I brought much of the shame onto myself, I was the one who felt like less than, based on my judgements. It was really important for me to drop those too, and understand that I am not a bad person, I have a disease.

    Great post, awesome pic, thank you! Hugs!

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    1. Agreed on the need for anonymity in the rooms and early on and for anyone else who wants it. We don’t need pressure. I like your point about projecting our own shame. There is definitely truth to that. I’m not ashamed of being sober but why I needed to be, maybe. There is work to be done. Thanks for this comment, Maggie.

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  8. Hi Kristen, I love the article on the Fix, and what a beautiful photo to go with it. Can’t believe you see bison whilst out running! Am totally jealous, though I do have baby geese, and they are cute 🙂 I think it’s brilliant that you’re out there and open about your recovery. You are so right when you say that it is the stigma of the situation that holds so many people back from seeking help for so long, and that only people being up front and open about their sobriety will change that. Reading Mrs D’s blog lately, she has been talking about her excitement of her new book, coupled with that fear that now Everyone Will Know. I do believe that people like you and Mrs D are at the vanguard of a change in the way we view alcohol and societies problems with it. I hope so. xxx

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    1. The bison are a rare treat. I don’t always see them. I’ll try and snap a picture sometime. Thanks for your very sweet comment. I’m so excited for Mrs D and her book. Exciting times to be part of this tight knit community.

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  9. Topic de jour… On my blog on here on someone else’s blog.
    However it is for people, go get the message out so others realise that they can recover that is all that really matters

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  10. From the beginning, you’ve been such a kind, generous and honest influence for me personally. Your latest post accentuates that! Everything I’ve learned about sobriety/alcoholism has been from the awesome, genuine and inclusive people in this little circle–look above in your comments (and likely below by the time the day is done). I see an anthem for fabulous–you are no exception dear Kristen. Bravo brave girl!

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    1. It means a lot that you read and comment…you make my world brighter. It is an amazing community and I feel really lucky to be part of it. It may be the norm for certain kinds of blogs on WP, but it’s not like anything I’ve found anywhere else. Thank you, my dear.

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  11. great article and love your thoughts on anonymity, too. photos like yours and Amy’s are just beautiful. I am reluctant to put my photo and real name out there because of my job…but greatly admire those of us who feel able to do so!

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  12. Great article Kristen, and yeah on The Fix!

    I too am completely open in my life, but I do respect the definition of anonymity of the rooms….
    I love The Anonymous People and it fired me up to be more open. I think people need to see that there are people JUST LIKE THEM who are sober and happy and recovering and I am always happy to share that.

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    1. The Anonymous People was a game changer for me. Guess I saw it when I was ready. I’m so glad you’re open about your recovery. I can picture that with you and it makes me really happy 🙂

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  13. I love this post, Kristen. I swear I got an edorphin rush from just reading it (and your post on The Fix). It fills me with such hope. I have a brother navigating the road to recovery. I hadn’t heard of The Anonymous People — I plan on watching it and sharing it with my family. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have at least one person in their life dealing with addiction. It’s so prevalent. My dad was a raging alcoholic when I was growing up. It felt like such a shameful secret, even though in a small town in wasn’t a secret at all. The good news is he’s 30+ years sober and has been a big support in my brother’s recovery.

    I ran a 5K once. Once. I’m a walker. That’s all the feel good I need, especially when it’s with my husband and we hold hands!

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    1. I love everything about this comment, Mary. Your brother is lucky to have such a supportive, strong family. And could there be anything sweeter than going for walks with your husband so you can hold hands? You’re my hero.

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  14. Brilliant piece and congrats on your honesty. It’s great your hubby is so out and proud of you. And you should be proud too… of putting your gorgeous face on this disease so publicly and helping to change the stigma.
    Well done on your 5k and for sticking with the running – we don’t have to be the best at everything anymore – another positive sober side effect!
    Good on you. X

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    1. Not having to be the best…that’s a tough lesson to remember, though not for lack of reminders 🙂 Thank you for your sweet comment. Always lovely to hear from you.

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  15. What is going on with this sober blogging community? Everyone it seems is getting famous out here! Amy, Mrs. D, you, etc. The list gets bigger. All I can say is that I knew Kristen when…and just ride coattails until I get rug burn. Then up the Polysporin.

    Well, what can I say – fab Fix feature (say that quickly five times). What a wonderful piece – two of my favourite topics blended into a smooth, velvety shake that goes down with love an light. Congratulations – that’s amazing.

    And as for the anonymity thing – I am still a Gravatar of a red bottle, and don’t have a last name in there and I don’t say too much about myself other than my boozing and court-related follies. So I guess anonymity is something that I am still chewing over. I am blown away by your openness, and the openness of many bloggers out here. Which makes we look at what fears are brought out by being as open. I am inspired by you and your blog (one of the first I followed and commented on!), so perhaps I will follow suit one day. Who knows! Great food for thought, as you can tell by my meandering thoughts here.

    Anyway – congrats again and thank you for shining the light in only the way you can.

    I knew her when…

    🙂

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  16. Thanks for sharing and totally stoked that you’re opening up about who you are. I agree with you that keeping yourself private is very important if you believe it will influence your recovery, but other than that, who cares? I guess my attitude is more like your husband’s but I think a lot of people benefit when you start being open, including yourself. Great read and hugs to you!

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    1. You definitely inspired me. I can make a big deal about it in my own head or be open. This is exciting. Thank you for your comment and for your beautiful writing and open sharing.

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  17. Hey K – well I smoked a cigarette right after I finished a 5K in 1988 – and I ran it with my boyfriend from 7th grade – how fun is that!
    but I enjoyed the post and what you wrote for The Fix. Enjoyed so many parts for so many different reasons – all so to say “3 cheers” for a liberating and healthy transparency – and what a great rippling effect potent stuff like this is bound to have – 🙂
    oh – and you hair looks lighter in that photo – I always pictured it very dark chocolate – but I like the summery highlight feel to that photo.
    have a nice week –

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    1. Ha, that does sound fun! I think I’d quit smoking by the time I did couch to 5K but not much time had passed. Actually, running is what keeps me from casual smoking, which is another slippery slope. Thanks for your comment!

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      1. yeah thanks K – and I wanted to share real quick about the smoking….if I may…..

        it took me 4 years to quit smoking – it was the late 80’s and they started adding chemicals to cigs – and so literally I could not keep smoking because it was making me ill –
        I think I shared that my body just could never tolerate chemicals – which was also my saving grace with alcohol and kept me in line (pain avoidance is a very potent motivator – for me at least – and when something makes me sick – I avoid it) and well – in about 1987 is when the sigs started changing – I switched to supposedly chemical free – and well, it was also just not good to be smoking at all and it was something I wanted to break free from.

        I remember being teased by at least a few folks as I quit smoking again and again and again – one colleague lightly teased with eyes rolled “she’s quitting again…..” but peer pressure never got to me that much – I was always able to do my own thing (thanks mom) –

        and while some may say little ol’ smoking ciggs is “not” like other addictions, for me it was something I had to break strongholds with – and I have found that it IS like other addictions – because addiction is addiction – esp. when it comes to the years of a physical connection, the mental processing, and the personal enjoyment that we have to walk away from. And breaking any addiction takes a mix of finding out what works for you as you uncover all the psychological, physical, and social connections that are layered within it…..

        And when I realized how much I absolutely loved and just enjoyed my friend in cigarettes – and when I saw that smoking cigs was such a joy to me – and was an extension of me – that was eye opening (um, sobering…:)) because I then saw that each time I quit and went back – there were so many things at play. It was a deep want. I was also coming alive in my faith and I heard that fasting was powerful. and so this is kinda funny now, but when I would fast for an entire day (while drinking only water mixed with juice – I would make gallons of water,cranberry and OJ) – I would walk into work and and tell everyone “I am fasting!” talk about transparent!! – I erred on the side of TMI – but oh well, I am who I am and that was and is just “me” – anyhow, I did not know that much about fasting at the time – and that it is sometimes better to not proclaim to all – ha! but in hindsight I KNOW that fasting was a key part of breaking my cig addiction – for me! – because as I abstained from everything for that full day (lol) and as I chugged and chugged my watered down juice (which was refreshing for me) well it did break strongholds – and it allowed me to not smoke for that single day – which was a start – but it was also was giving me practice with discipline and learning more about my MO – and for “me” – it was what I needed. I also used to kneel at my bed and in advance I began thanking God for taking the addiction away – I thanked him in a dance for pulling the desire away – I began thanking him for strength for my breakthrough that was coming – and it came. It came.

        My breakthrough came. But it took time.

        It took never giving up.

        It took a personal journey of understanding the ins and outs of “my” personal attachment to it.

        And when it comes to ANY addiction – I think we all need to remember that there are universal things we share when it comes to habits, escapism and just matters of “pure enjoyment” – but then then there are very personal things we have to uncover and connect with too!

        Also, sometimes it is a matter of breaking the “classic conditioning” we have with the role that these “things” play in our life.
        and as Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever give up…”
        because we are “up until we win” and the process is often messy and we may even get a few snickers – but we keep our eyes on the prize – which is OUR HEALTH! 🙂

        have a great weekend to you and your readers – ❤
        ~y.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I like the idea of fasting for a variety of reasons. Not long term, mind you, but to jumpstart some work I know I need to do. Thank you for leaving your comment about quitting smoking, and I don’t just mean because you mentioned fasting. There are a lot of points that are helpful for me to hear right now. I appreciate your comments and you.

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      1. well thanks so much for that sweet reply. 🙂 I felt bad leaving such a long comment (well okay, not really that bad – because I know this is the kind of blog that welcomes long comments… O_o)

        and while not everyone can move into fasting easily – I have also heard that Calorie Reduction (CR) can be very good for longevity and health. Like it is okay so skip a meal – or eat light for the day – and actually super good for the organs and for overall wellness…

        But this is only possible when the body is in balance and when things are aligned inside and outside – and that takes time… it takes detective work too – to figure out what our bodies need – and recently I learned a whole bunch of stuff about nutrition and health that I was not really caring to learn about – lol – 🙂

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      2. another thing real quick like – one of my very favorite brands of anything is Sonne’s – and you have to check out their stuff – especially the #7 bentonite clay… or their 7 day cleanse –

        from their site:
        “We firmly believe that, unless all fecal matter is removed, no amount or kinds of drugs, operations, vitamins, or food supplements (including ours) will rid the body of all chronic ailments. Therefore, the most important procedure directed towards regaining Your Health is the complete and thorough cleansing of the colon, no matter what or how long it takes.
        …Moderate fasting should be a routine procedure for everyone.” (more here: https://sonnes.com/detox-cleansing/)

        ~~~

        also, not sure if you heard of MSM – but I suggest EVERYONE should try this amazing stuff – ESPECIALLY those healing or in recovery – oh wow – and NOWfoods has high quality stuff at a great price….

        “MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a form of biologically available sulfur, naturally occurring in extremely tiny amounts in plants. MSM contains 34% elemental sulfur, by weight. Sulfur is the 10th most abundant element in the universe. The sulfur that it supplies represents about the eighth most abundant mineral in the human body…..”

        more here http://www.nowfoods.com/Products/FAQs/M012401.htm

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  18. Great job.. and good on you. I really want to watch The Anonymous People.. not sure how I can get it here in NZ. Sending love anyway and once again good on you. One brave sober warrior at a time!! (I’m not allowed to reveal my full name for another 3 weeks as my publishers want to hold a bit of intrigue back for the local audiences here in NZ coz of whom I’m married too..that ‘angle’ is going to help generate a bit more local interest in my story .. but I do really really look forward to being able to just be me..) xxxx

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    1. I was definitely inspired by those sober bloggers who have always used their full names. After a couple days of letting it sink in and process, I believe it was the right thing for me to do. When you do get the chance, I know you will absolutely love The Anonymous People. It’s empowering and hopeful. I’m really excited for you and your upcoming book. I cannot wait to read it.

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  19. this post speaks to every part of me. I love seeing the freedom you have found in your recovery. I went through a similar process when I began contemplating writing a book. It all comes down to authenticity for me. I had to find my peace with it all and not worry about the stigma. I rarely tell people I am in recovery (socially), but if it comes up I am not ashamed. I have truly learned the difference between my reality and another’s judgment of my reality. Going to head over to The Fix and read you now. Also, congrats on a Fix publication.
    xo

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    1. You are one of the first sober women whose beautiful face was also linked to a real name. It means something and I know it’s not right for everyone, but it feels an important and simple enough step for me to take. Thank you as always for your support and kindness.

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  20. Great article, Kristen. Congrats on feeling unencumbered enough to go ahead and use your full name. I get that anonymity is helpful, and I’m still holding onto it myself, but I’m so glad more and more people are outing themselves in the sober world. I’ll get there. I also love your take on running. It’s no good to leave the fun of sports to the “natural athletes” when we can all go out there ourselves and, very slowly, have fun. Hooray for you! xo

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    1. When I remove the competitiveness (which is purely in my head), I actually kind of feel like an athlete. I read a great piece in runner’s world once that all you need to call yourself a runner is a pile of stinky running clothes. I’m a runner! Thank you for your comment and support.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. BB, you have really made a good point here. Anonymity is something we all enjoy at times and at other times, we suffer because of it. Whatever happens in our lives, mostly, we are all good people and we will all be remembered fondly for the good we have contributed along the way. Your husband is quite right in his attitude to what others might or might not think and you have shown with your willingness to speak on a difficult subject, that you are a deeply thoughtful soul. That care and consideration marks you as the person and the rest, as they say, is history. B

    Liked by 2 people

  22. You should be proud of yourself for being as open as you are. I’ve read your story from the beginning and it really resonates with me (as I’m sure it does with many other “lurkers” like myself). I was chuckling at the comment about you picturing the toxins leaving your body through beads of sweat, as I do the same. It’s been nice working out and sweating just to sweat, and not because I’m trying to rid my body of toxins or reverse the damage I did the night before. Kudos to you and great article! You’re an inspiration for many. Thank you.

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