My name is Martyn Armstrong (Momo, as I'm more commonly known in online circles); I'm a new blogger for "Debunking Addiction" at HealthyPlace. Next January, I'll cross the threshold of 10 years of sobriety. Still, other than a few Twitter threads on my journey, I'm relatively new to discussing addiction and mental health. And I feel excited (and, if I'm honest, slightly nervous) about sharing my experiences. Addiction and mental health play significant roles in my everyday life. And, though it sounds odd, there are upsides to both.
Two weeks ago, I embarked on a massive life change. Moving away from the town where I got sober to begin a new chapter flipped my world upside down. I had to face my fear of change and part ways with the people, places, and things that kept me grounded for three years. My comfort zone was demolished, forcing me to start afresh.
Someone recently asked me what fun things I have planned for the summer. Surprisingly, that felt like a loaded, triggering question. As a sober person who doesn't have a driver's license or disposable income, I get jealous and resentful when people talk about their vacation plans. The fear of missing out (FOMO) surfaces, and I feel excluded from that version of fun.
The media's portrayal of alcohol addiction hurts people. Last week there was an article on the front page of my local newspaper about a man who was publicly intoxicated. The paper printed his name, hometown, and mugshot for everyone to see. This story was the talk of the tiny, touristy town where I live. Everyone thought it was acceptable to mock this man who struggles with alcohol. After this media portrayal of alcohol addiction and the ensuing jokes, I found myself in a triggered tailspin.
A few weeks ago, I told my therapist that I would not have been able to get sober without using cannabis. She chuckled, gave me a funny look, and asked if I thought cannabis use equaled sobriety. Caught off guard, I couldn't help but wonder if she had a point. Were my years of sobriety erased? Did I need to go back to day one? Can I use cannabis and still call myself sober?
Recently, I have noticed a disturbing diet-talk trend whenever I am with a group of women. Last week, for example, someone at my job said they eat less than 1000 calories while dieting. Another is preparing for her upcoming wedding by eliminating all carbohydrates. Constantly, I hear things like, "I'm trying to be good, so I'm not eating sugar," or "I was so bad last night because I ate ice cream."
In 1999, when I was in fifth grade, a police officer came to our school dressed in a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) t-shirt. He was carrying a gun and wearing a stern face. Without any words, he communicated that using drugs led to extreme consequences. His lecture taught us that drug addicts deserve to be locked up. But criminalizing addiction turned out to be more hurtful than helpful.
Eleven years ago, I got arrested for my first driving under the influence (DUI) charge. Long before that original DUI arrest, I knew I had a problem with alcohol. I knew that blackout drinking a few nights a week was not healthy. But I never spoke up or asked for help because I was terrified of being labeled an alcoholic. Facing the truth meant I would be diagnosed with alcoholism, an incurable, highly stigmatized disease.
One of the most challenging parts of being in recovery for alcohol use disorder (AUD) is dealing with society's normalization of alcohol, a deadly drug. Alcohol is everywhere. Some days, triggering situations come at me more quickly than I can process them. Some days, I want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and stay there forever because that feels like the only safe place in this alcohol-obsessed culture.
Last week my coworker said she believes addiction is a choice. Her exact words were, "At the end of the day, each person always has the choice to pick up or put down drugs." In response to her comment, I had a full-body, physical reaction. My armpits got sweaty, my heart rate skyrocketed, my shoulders tensed, my jaw tightened, and my neck broke out in red blotchy hives.