in recovery – #AgainstStigma the face of addiction/”mental illness”*: one month in

One month into my ‪#‎AgainstStigma‬ project and I have had 10 participants, with three more in the wings – more than I could have dreamt of! To my participants: I am beyond grateful for your incredible courage to stand up and be the face of addiction and/or mental illness, especially in the face of the very real stigma. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You guys are the modern day heroes. You guys are the ones fighting the battle, day by day, and living to tell the tale.

And please, if anyone has any queries, reservations or debates to offer up about this project, please contact me. This is a project under constant revision and re-creation. Let’s discuss and create what we live with together, instead of having the medical and psychiatric industry define it for us.*/**

And let’s keep speaking out against stigma, for the sake of those still struggling with addiction, mental illness and the stigma that prevents them from realising they’re not alone and from getting the support they so desperately need. Please share. Please participate.

Click for: The participants thus far.

* A note on what I mean by mental illness. The word ‘illness’ is something I use for the sake of clarity, to make sure that everyone knows what I am speaking about. So I use the psychiatric term. So whatever your definition and whether you see it as a burden or a gift, what I mean here by ‘mental illness’ is the same thing you mean. I have huge issues with the psychiatric institution and see it as very fraught, and I am not a big fan of the DSM whatever version we’re on now. I don’t believe in ‘diagnosis’ and hate how it labels and limits one. I see my ‘mental illness’ as part of my personality, not a pathology, something that makes me more sensitive and creative than most, which is both beautiful and difficult. Whether you align yourself to addiction as an illness or something that is not pathological, this project is for you, because I would like to put a face on those living outside the boundaries of what most people consider ‘normal’, and making a success of the daily struggles.

** recovery / active recovery / clean time / active recovery from mental illness / clean time from mental illness‘Recovery’ is not easily definable. I use the terms ‘recovery’ and ‘mental illness’ in the way that they are defined by the very, very fraught psychiatric institution. What I mean by ‘in recovery’ as opposed to ‘active addiction’ is that the former has taken the steps needed to live with their mental illness/addiction. They are aware that it is a day-to-day struggle and not something that is ever cured. An active addict or someone who is a victim to their mental illness is someone who is waiting to be saved; someone who does not take responsibility for what they are dealing with. And certainly, reaching out for help is taking responsibility. It’s the difference between between active, an agent in one’s own recovery, and being passive and waiting for a pill/professional/sobriety to save one. What it means for me is the last time my life was completely unmanageable, when I was not functioning, when the depression controlled me instead of the other way around; when I was a victim to it instead of a survivor living with and dealing with it daily. But having said that, it is not all smooth sailing. And not just because I’m an addict and living with mental illness, but because I’m alive ;) There are ups and downs and I have bad days and even relapse in some of my addictions. Or if I don’t relapse in my addictions, then I relapse in my addictive thinking and do impulsive, self-destructive and general ‘addict’ things. This clarification is under constant revision and has not been expressed very well here. Comments, queries and suggestions are very, very welcome. Let’s keep redefining what we live with, by ourselves, for ourselves, instead of having a psychiatric institution tell us what we live with. 

6 thoughts on “in recovery – #AgainstStigma the face of addiction/”mental illness”*: one month in

  1. This looks really interesting .. I studied psychology up to MA level but found it flawed too .. am a recovering addict myself .. is it just a fb site at the moment?

  2. Hi Derek, thanks for your interest! No, it’s not a Facebook site or group. It’s something I’m running from my wordpress account and posting to wordpress, tumblr, twitter and facebook. Herewith more details:

    Herewith the piece I wrote in response to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, which sparked the project: http://germainedelarch.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/philip-seymour-hoffmans-addiction-and-death-and-our-culture-of-stigma-and-hypocrisy/

    The project itself was then birthed: http://germainedelarch.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/taking-the-anonymous-out-of-addiction-mental-illness-photographic-project-in-recovery-the-face-of-addictionmental-illness/

    And I drew up this ‘Call to Participate’ post, in which I attempt to define recovery, addiction and mental illness, giving people who would like to participate some parameters, even if loose, flexible and ever-changing: http://germainedelarch.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/call-to-participate-the-face-of-addictionmental-illness-against-stigma/

    I have up until now, including me, five photographic participants. Here is an example of another one of them: http://germainedelarch.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/the-face-of-addictionmental-illness-againststigma-2/

    I then also quickly realised how real the stigma is, as people indicated that they’d love to participate, but that the stigma prevented them. So I’m now also including anonymous submissions of people’s struggles with addiction, mental illness and stigma: http://germainedelarch.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/anonymous-2-againststigma/

    I really believe in this project, and envision it becoming a widespread social media ‘exhibition’ and then a physical exhibition. If you’d like to participate either anonymously or via photograph, email me on germainedelarch@gmail.com

  3. Thanks Germaine,.. looks like a worthwhile project for sure. I have ‘outed’ my old addictions on places like the kagablog, but interestingly, in a documentary I am involved with on an old band I once played in, one of the band members wants nothing said in the doccie about our drug addictions, which basically killed the band, because he feels it compromises his ability to retain and find work now .. such is the face of stigma ..

  4. Yeah, I’m also realising through this project how real the stigma is. It’s never been a huge issue for me, personally, as I’ve always been very upfront about my addiction and mental illness, but I’ve had a number of people who were willing to participate pull out because they’ve realised just how great the stigma is when thinking about outing themselves on Facebook. I, for one, would much rather work with a recovered addict than someone who’s in denial or in the closet. At least then I know they’re sober.

  5. Yeah .. loads of alcoholics out there who think they don’t have drug problems .. good luck with your project. It DOES take a huge pair to put your face out there and say here I am, an ex druggie .. with such and such problems ..I take my hat off to those who have ..

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