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Recov­er­ing Out Loud: Liv­ing My Truth Despite Stigma

KYC is hon­ored to high­light this first-hand recov­ery expe­ri­ence of one of our team mem­bers, Fran, our Recov­ery Sup­port Ser­vices Project Asso­ciate. Thank you, Fran, for your ongo­ing com­mit­ment to your own recov­ery, and the work that you do each day to help oth­er peo­ple in their recov­ery jour­neys, too!

By Fran Quesea

Three years ago I made the deci­sion to start my recov­ery jour­ney. I faced a lot of doubt even mak­ing the deci­sion to recov­er because there was a lot I didn’t under­stand about recov­ery as an Asian Pacif­ic Islander Amer­i­can (APIA). My per­cep­tion of recov­ery at the time looked like going to rehab and spend­ing a ton of mon­ey I didn’t have. If I decid­ed to go the route of tra­di­tion­al treat­ment, I knew I would have to become pub­lic to my fam­i­ly about my addic­tion. The thought of that ter­ri­fied me because hav­ing an addic­tion was some­thing I felt incred­i­bly guilty and ashamed about. Con­fronting stig­ma, under­stand­ing my cul­tur­al and racial iden­ti­ty, and shar­ing my sto­ries with oth­ers was one way I found healing. 

The stig­ma sur­round­ing sub­stance use and addic­tion is a bar­ri­er many peo­ple expe­ri­ence that pre­vents them from seek­ing recov­ery. This per­ceived stig­ma is embed­ded deep into our soci­ety and many dif­fer­ent cul­tures view sub­stance use issues as taboo. Stig­ma can cause peo­ple to have neg­a­tive atti­tudes about them­selves and this can destroy someone’s self-esteem.

Fran Quote

In an APIA house­hold, one person’s men­tal health issues take less of a pri­or­i­ty than the pros­per­i­ty of the fam­i­ly. Tra­di­tion­al APIA val­ues focus on the col­lec­tive com­mu­ni­ty and because of that, one’s indi­vid­ual men­tal health tends to be over­looked. There is also a lack of cul­tur­al­ly com­pe­tent resources out there for APIA. These two fac­tors com­bined can also act as a bar­ri­er in someone’s recovery. 

It’s also impor­tant to con­sid­er the impact of the mod­el minor­i­ty myth. This myth paints Asian Amer­i­cans as the minor­i­ty that oth­ers should aspire to be. It stereo­types us as wealth­i­er, smarter, and clos­er to white­ness. It per­pet­u­ates harm­ful rhetoric that pits us against oth­er peo­ple of col­or and dis­miss­es our own true expe­ri­ences. It alien­ates us from oth­er peo­ple and ulti­mate­ly our­selves. This stan­dard pres­sures peo­ple who might be going through an addic­tion to appear like every­thing is fine when it’s not. This was true for my own experience.


I want peo­ple who are expe­ri­enc­ing an addic­tion to learn­ing that there is actu­al­ly an abun­dance of com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced stig­ma one way or anoth­er and are will­ing to lis­ten if you feel like shar­ing your expe­ri­ences. The pow­er of being able to share with my com­mu­ni­ty has made it eas­i­er for me to see that recov­ery is pos­si­ble and it works. Recov­ery Dhar­ma, White Bison Well­bri­ety, 12 Step, SMART Recov­ery, and many more are com­mu­ni­ties out there for sup­port. Maybe one of these will res­onate with you and you can expe­ri­ence the ben­e­fits of a shar­ing com­mu­ni­ty for yourself. 

There is no right time to come out and share your recov­ery, nor is it manda­to­ry to do so. Recov­ery is per­son­al, com­plex, and there’s no one right” way to do it. Choos­ing not to share your sto­ry doesn’t make your progress invalid either. My hope in shar­ing my own sto­ry and the bar­ri­ers I faced, is that oth­ers can find inspi­ra­tion to come forth and share their sto­ries if they choose to. If we can stop the stig­ma around addic­tion, espe­cial­ly for oth­ers who expe­ri­ence this bar­ri­er, maybe more peo­ple can heal and start the process of recovery. 

Look­ing for a recov­ery com­mu­ni­ty to join? Check out one of our SMART Recov­ery groups!

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