Happy Black History Month! Being a black person in recovery is so special, and very brave if I do say so myself. This year has been a bit of a heavy weight on the African American community, and not to get into it, but the system does not benefit those struggling with addiction in a lot of black communities. It feels special to be in a place where I can have a voice and feel heard simultaneously. Not only to benefit me, but hopefully cross paths of people in need of empathy, what a grand mission that is.This week’s blog post might be a bit shorter than others, but that’s only because this topic is very broad, and in my humble opinion there is a right way to speak about these things.
I wanna shift the focus by sharing something my dad used to say to me quite often in early recovery. “Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate”. There’s plenty of stories we hear in media about celebrities going to rehab, getting clean and sober and whatnot. Although that never stopped the innocence in me wondering “Why them?”. It’s a big burden to bear that a lot of us can’t imagine. Being in the public eye while also suffering a battle with your own behaviors, unexplained by anything or anyone…except someone whose been through the same.
Some of our treasured black icons went through what we as addicts would consider a rock bottom. Malcolm X very famously and openly talked about his struggles with addiction in his Autobiography. In there, he wrote:
“…almost everyone in Harlem needed some kind of hustle to survive, and needed to stay high in some way to forget what they had to do to survive” (Autobiography, p. 91).
Reading his words changed my perception of what my father had told me, because for so many years addiction had stayed close to home, and I wasn’t really into news and pop-culture, so I was unaware that celebrities and these seemingly shiny people had these struggles too. But the portrayed burdensome reality of life didn’t just hit me in my years using, it hit plenty of people in this world. I wasn’t alone in this survival. I wasn’t alone in feeling like I must be some type of devil. Something evil. Malcolm expressed quietly at first his struggles with being a drug dealer, pimp, addict, you name it. But later told us his full story in the book. He thought recovery was a spiritual reckoning. And that it is.
As a human, and a black American who has struggled with the disease of addiction, I can say that this is a figure I truly look up to. Someone who cleaned up and spoke up about how addiction is not only a disease, but an outgrowth of the oppression of black Americans. And today we can recover. Today we get to hold life in the palms of our beautiful black hands and say: “I am here. I am with you. And I love you”…and the biggest revelation of recovery for me has been, now more than ever, that I don’t have to do it alone. And neither do you.
Happy Black History month ya’ll. I celebrate me, those who came before me, and all of you I am yet to meet.