Safety from Stigma
Learning how recovery, addiction, and mental illness are so intertwined has been eye-opening in my three years of sobriety. Being able to see how my depression opened the door to the depths of addiction in my life now makes perfect sense. The stigma that comes with both addiction and mental illness is a double whammy for most in recovery or those searching for their answer. There is a stigma in recovery circles as well as with the general public. We must begin to bring these issues to life by the telling of our stories.
Before this week my life has been void of being personally affected by a death due to addiction and mental illness. On Monday that changed. My best friend from college, who was also my roommate and best man at my wedding, lost his son to mental illness and drug use. It is a pain and grief that I cannot fathom. Having battled mental illness and addiction, as well as, having four children I have great empathy for him and his family.
My friend is a well-known food critic for a major publication. His son, who was 19, worked closely with him in the kitchen from a young age and was following a passion of cooking and culinary arts. I do not know much about his son as his father and I have not kept in close contact over the years. I can only imagine the devastation this has left him but he already is trying to make sense of it all by speaking out about depression and opioid use. I know that he will not let his son’s life fade away but he will instead use the legacy of his son to bring awareness to the deadly dangers of mental illness and drug use.
This death has brought me a new perspective on just how deadly the issues of mental health and addiction are in our society. It has forced me to search my feelings on the effects of the stigma so many of us face. Not only are addicts and those suffering from mental illness shamed into silence but so are the families that love and care for them. Our society feels compassion for a sickness such as cancer yet looks down upon things like depression and addiction. One is not more self-inflicted than the other. We addicts know this and it is something that ones who have not experienced it probably will ever understand.
We must fight the stigma. But the best way in my opinion to do that is to reach out to communities across our nation and let them know that they are not alone and there is help. We cannot force others to understand or be compassionate about something that has never touched them in any way. But we can provide a voice of security and trust to those who have been afflicted. We must continue to spread our stories so that they realize there are many just like them and their suffering does not have to be in secrecy.
We must be proud and not anonymous. We must put a healthy face on the options of recovery. We must make sure people feel a sense of belonging and a safe place to turn in times of trouble. They must see us not being afraid of who we are and what we battle. I am not afraid of my past, my addiction, and my fight against depression. In my fight, I will make sure that I bring a light into what has been darkness for those who are struggling or love someone who is struggling. As warriors on purpose, they will see that we can and do recover, that life can be more than we imagine, and that through the storms we come out on the other side, strong and empowered.
I am Kip Shubert and founder of Warriors on Purpose. I am a 48 yr old father of four beautiful children. I have been an educator, coach, and motivational speaker for over two decades. A decorated middle school teacher, Oklahoma All-State Coach, and an award-winning collegiate athlete. I am also a recovering alcoholic. Throughout most of my life, I constantly wondered where my life was going. I never felt worthy or good enough. I spiraled into a darkness I had never dreamed could affect me. Homeless and clinging to my teaching career I hit my bottom. Through my struggles, I learned to fight for the life I knew was there for me. My battles and my addiction helped me to overcome the emotional issues and fear that had always held me back. Through God and my experiences in life, I have come to find and fulfill my purpose.