MY SECRET; Candace S.— I started my recovery journey nearly 20 months ago. In the beginning, I was surrounded by people that knew my situation, knew about my addiction, and supported me in my journey. Now, I am finding myself in a place where virtually no one but my immediate family and closest friends know about my recovery and the circumstances that brought me here. I live on the edge of being “found out” and wonder just how much my past could impact my job, new friendships, and my relationships with Little League baseball moms. Am I still Candace, the recovering addict, or someone else?
While I was still in treatment, I found a job working in a daycare center that’s part of a Christian school. The administration hired me with a full understanding of my circumstances and welcomed me on board with loving arms. I kept my secret–living in a rehab center–to myself for the first month or two I worked there. Of course, several of my coworkers noticed I didn’t drive to work or own a cell phone, and some questions were raised. I decided to open up and share my experiences with them. I found that my coworkers were amazed at where I had come from and the turn my life had taken since I had been in the rehab program. As time went on, I was able to open up and share with some of the parents about my recovery journey. I (surprisingly) found many of them to be understanding. Many were inspired by my fight to overcome my struggle. Several of my coworkers called me a superhero. I found a lot of freedom in being able to “recover out loud.” Perhaps this is exactly what I needed at this time in my life.
In the early stages of recovery, I was forced to confront many things that were uncomfortable. Recovery felt like an itchy, wool sweater I couldn’t wait to take off. I feel pretty confident this something everyone in recovery has in common. As the months passed, I got comfortable in that “recovery sweater.” Addiction and/or recovery came up in nearly every conversation I had at work, at home, at church, at the salon, and even the bank. I felt like I had to talk it about it. In a sense, I guess you could say I was addicted to recovery. While this is much healthier than being addicted to a substance, I believe there is a balance to find here too.
At the beginning of my fall semester in school, I took a job at a prestigious preschool working children from high-income families. I was roughly fifteen months sober then. I didn’t breathe a word about my recent four month vacation in rehab. Of course, I was hoping I would be able to establish the same relationships with my new coworkers and feel at ease to share my recovery journey. Here I am, six months later, and I have yet to open myself up to anyone. I actually work pretty hard to keep my secret safe. I tell half truths about why I am in my 30’s, living back at home with mom and dad. I rarely speak about my personal life. And the gaps in my employment history? I owned my own “business.”
Maybe I’m at a crossroads in my life and in my recovery. Maybe I’m in a place where my identity is changing. For so many years, I found my identity wrapped up in being an addict. Then, my identity became wrapped up in recovery. Yes, I am an addict. Yes, I am in recovery, but that is not all that I am. This where I learn balance between the two. While I must keep my recovery first, recovery does not have to completely encompass everything about my life. I remind myself I’m not just an addict in recovery. I am a baseball mom, teacher, college student, runner, school volunteer, community helper, and a friend. I’m slowly breaking away from the “addict” label and filling new roles. Yes, there are still times I look around and think, “I do NOT belong here.” But just as I had a choice to choose recovery, I have a choice to embrace who I am outside of addiction and create a new identity for myself. Please understand, I am not pretending addiction and recovery isn’t a part of who I am. What I am saying is, it doesn’t have to be all that I am. Addiction and recovery doesn’t have to be all that you are either.
Through this process of events, I’m figuring out who Candace is outside of the recovered addict role. I am learning it is okay not to expose too much about myself within the first five minutes of meeting someone. I’m learning to have conversations about college football and politics, instead of conversations rehab and my street life. I’m also finding out it’s work to change some of these things. I have no doubt there will be an opportunity on this happy road of destiny that will allow me to open up and share my story with my new coworkers and friends, but I’m not there yet. I think I’ll know when the time is right. For now, I will continue working on keeping my recovery first while I continue finding out how much more Candace is outside of being an addict in recovery.
For more on Candace click “HERE” for Twitter.
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