The hardest part about being a journalist for me is not the dread of potential negative comments from people I don’t know, but the fear that I might hurt my family by revealing too much about my dark history.
I’ve only recently started publishing confessional pieces about my struggles with addiction and my ongoing recovery from alcohol and prescription pill dependency, which is a huge divergence from what I normally do -- celebrity interviews and profiles. I finally got to a point where I realized that, despite how detrimental my tell-all articles could be to my career and, well, my dating life (everyone Googles everyone these days), I could actually help other people going through similar things just by telling my story. Whatever consequences I might endure for being so publicly honest, I decided, would ultimately worth it.
“I just read your article,” she said and then gasped for a bit of air. I could tell she was crying. In that moment, I didn’t really know what to think. Was she embarrassed or ashamed that I had made my struggles so public, or was she crushed by all the horrific details of my relapse that I hadn’t actually told anyone before? There’s relapsing, and then there’s relapsing on mouthwash. Up until that point, everyone, aside from a few doctors, thought I had just relapsed on beer and wine.
“I’m so proud of you,” she then said. “I read some of the comments, and a lot of people are identifying with your story.”
My Mom has always been my biggest supporter. She framed the first magazine article I ever published: a 100-word piece on the color purple -- not the movie, the actual color. She’s read everything I’ve ever written, and she’s always the person I’ll send a rough copy of an article to if I think it needs another set of eyes. She hates it when I use swear words in my stories, but she insists she doesn’t mind when I bear the raw details of my struggles with addiction, as long as I’m doing it with the intent of helping other people.
More important to me than anything else, my Mom is the one who’s been there beside me through my most difficult times. She spent every single available visiting hour with me on my many past trips to the hospital when I overdosed on benzos and alcohol or felt suicidal. When I was allowed out of my rehab center on weekends, she drove two hours (with my Dad, who is also awesome) to pick me up, rented movies for us to watch together and tried -- despite how hard it was for her to see me at the lowest point in my life -- to make my weekends feel special and fun. I could easily be the type of person whose parents eventually gave up on her, but my Mom has never left my side.
I have friends who have also struggled with addiction whose parents prefer that they not speak too openly about it, for fear of tarnishing their families’ reputations. I don’t think I’d ever have gained the strength to fight my demons if I knew that my problems embarrassed my family.
Having a Mom who is not only proud of me for fighting my fight but who also encourages me to write about my issues has made my recovery an incredibly positive experience. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t write about what I went through and what I’m still going through. There’s something about constructing a narrative out of my struggles -- and knowing that, by doing so, other people might find hope for themselves or compassion for addicts when they read it -- that somehow helps me find peace with my troubled past.
All the writers here at xoJane have enormous balls when it comes to putting themselves, their life experiences and their names out there for the sake of honest journalism. It’s easy to forget when we read real-life stories that the writer in question is not just bearing her life to the world, because sometimes that’s the easy part, but also revealing some of her biggest secrets to the people that already know her.
Sometimes the people in our lives, like my Mom, love us more for being so publicly honest about where our lives have taken us and what we have garnered from our experiences, and sometimes they shy away from us once they know the raw details of what we’ve been through. I have some friends who find me absolutely terrifying now that they’ve read my confessional stories. But that’s just one of the consequences I’m willing to face, for the sake of sharing my experiences with other people.
Besides, I know that my biggest fan is reading this article right now and beaming with pride, so I’ll just take this moment to say: I love you, Mom.