Note from Marilyn L. Davis, Editor-in-chief at From Addict 2 Advocate:
As a woman, I have been labeled. Some descriptors have vanished from our politically correct vocabulary as well they should have; others, however, have cropped up and taken their place, only to be disparaged enough that they are now only uttered by the truly brave or truly ignorant.
I admire anyone who is willing to go out on the short limb, or discuss how the emperor is nude. I have been accused of these self-destructive behaviors more than once, myself. We’re often told to simply watch the parade in silence. Why?
As a woman in long-term recovery for almost 29 years, I have also been called a crack whore and drug slut. Not very politically correct, fair, or equitable, but was the norm when I got into recovery in 1988.
One of the interesting things about descriptors within the culture of addiction is that women have sexually derisive connotations, while our male counterparts do not.
I can make an argument that prostitution for drugs is harmful, shameful, and degrading for all humans, but the public is sometimes not ready to give up the names for women. Given that we can research anything today, guess the male synonyms for bitch, skank, whore, slut, tramp, and hooker:
- The Man
- A Star
As you can see, there doesn’t seem to be a single one that sounds near as bad as a whore, now do they?
These polarized distinctions, still phrased in a disdainful way are unfortunately, still with us in 2017.
We’re Women in Recovery: Why Are We Still Labeled Whores?
By: Christine Campbell BSW MS
So, did my title get your attention? It gets my attention often along with ‘dope-slut’. It’s when I hear this talk in the rooms from guys who claim to be ‘a grateful, recovering addict/alcoholic’ and goes on to talk about the dope slut he was talking to–or the coke whore he saw recently.
I am inspired today to write this as I read a pretty awesome piece on one guy’s own history, insanity, paralyzing fear, coming to after a blackout, and a great share about cocaine psychosis and eventual recovery-something I know and have experienced myself.
I am coming up on 25 years clean/sober and have found my voice. I found my voice and have been fired twice in sobriety-but found my voice.
It is an honor and a privilege to sponsor women, and for that I am grateful. I think about each one-many dead or the walking dead-who have a history of sexual abuse, rape and torture at times as I do.
The article that I read spoke to the writer waking up one morning-the girl that he was with the night before gone–as was his money-his stash and the secret stash! His recollection was good and familiar including what cocaine psychosis is like.
Then it led to the whore-the low life that did this to him! I remember my insanity, the ‘family friend’ who took advantage of me at 5 years old when my parents had one big blow out of a New Year’s Eve party. I still have repressed memories at 63. The brain is a powerful thing. I do know the FEELING-of fear, acting out, getting my way with my body, my charm and my master manipulation. Isn’t this what love is? Isn’t this what men want? Ok, and I’ll show you pal.
I also had one incredible sponsor who reminded me often that I was not in my right mind when I shared the remorse, the paralyzing fear, and horror of what one is capable of after a 3 day bender. Here’s the thing-I will rob your grandmother in that condition and not think anything of it-as YOU would.
I ignored any rule of no relationships and no sex for the first year sober-I have a 29-year-old daughter from one of those hookups in treatment. I was not supposed to be able to conceive and thought I had an answered prayer-bargaining with God often ‘if I had a child I will quit’.
I lived with the thought that God came through and I didn’t for years-reliving the punishing God of my youth. I have had one roommate in my life-a very broken woman I met in, yet another treatment. We went to a local bookstore together after a strong suggestion from our aftercare counselor to pick up ‘the workbook’…. God, please not the workbook-that was a guide to admitting, overcoming and forgiving YOURSELF for sexual abuse, rape and torture.
We laughed later on about the sweat, the paralyzing shame of walking the workbook up to the counter at the bookstore, hiding the front cover that screamed “HOW TO OVERCOME SEXUAL ABUSE”. We were worried what the cashier would think!
I think of Carol often as I know she is still out there-spinning, using, with a thousand forms of fear. Often women hear they must have asked for it or enjoyed it as their mothers stated when they had the courage to tell. Carol’s grandfather was her first peep and he included taking her in the basement as a six-year-old and introducing her to the spider monkeys he had in cages. Let your mind figure out what he taught her to do with them. Unspeakable.
The second perp was the stepfather (this is so often the case) and when she acted out as an adolescent, her mother sent her off to a home. She claimed to be gay, but about every six months, would hook up with a guy who would be very rough with her, degrade her, and then back to the lesbians she went-probably feeling some sort of tenderness and love that was never experienced.
Labeled: Active Addict
I shudder when I remember having my sweet daughter in the back seat, strapped into her car seat as I copped more dope. I justified this as sticking the money out the sunroof, down came the goods, then I drove away and began to use on the service drive home as ‘it was safer’….
And I wanted to argue the word insanity with you people. I thought I had this genius secret where I came out of my pretty white middle class neighborhood, drove down to ‘the hood’- did the drive thru dope run-and back home to the house. One day I looked in my rearview mirror (always looking for cops-not fearful to get caught as much as not wanting my high to be interrupted or stopped). I saw a long line of minivans-white women lined up to do exactly what I was doing. As Dr. Mate says it’s not why the addiction-it’s why the pain.
Giving Up the False Labels and Finding Myself
I eventually surrendered when that sweet kid of mine was four. My sponsor and her sponsor strongly suggested long-term. By the grace of God, I found one of the two sober livings in the country that took the mothers and the children so affected by our using. We stayed for a year, had 2 years of aftercare, and both of us had individual therapists. Not what I ever imagined for my baby girl-but we are not alone.
I surrendered when I met some old guy named Clancy at a speaker meeting one night and began to get honest and do the work. I eventually graduated college-another strong push from sponsors to get my education. My sponsor would say often… these women need to hear what you have to say…
Living and Helping Others with their Labels
I went to Grad school in Minneapolis and was hired by a good guy who really believed in me. (I didn’t so much at the time). I had to agree to stay in the Master’s program as he didn’t usually hire those with Bachelors-but three of us were and in under strong supervision. When new cases would be presented such as… here is a woman in her 15th treatment center. She has lost custody of her 4 children, had a baby by her grandfather, the baby died at 3 days old….. my supervisor would shout… Oh, give that one to Chris Campbell…she’s good at that stuff….
We are warrior’s people. Women who stand in their greatness, and overcome enormous obstacles are amazing. My therapist years ago told me I wouldn’t know what love was if it bit me in the ass. I know what it is today.
We Are No Longer the Labels
The strong, courageous ones are my teachers as are some men I have met-mostly in the rooms. They are protective, caring, and like big brothers. Jim and Andy, two incredible ole timers here, came up to me last year when I got my 24 year medallion. Both said, “Chris, you know how rare it is to get into the double digits and you know that is even more rare that it be a woman. Good for you honey.”
That meant the world to me. That’s what we need guys-dope slut? Whore? No-my past is what God expects me to use helping others with their present.
One of the many sayings I have taped to my fridge:
- We will not be shamed into silence.
- We will not hide in dark corners, begging you not to notice our scars.
- We will not graciously accept ridicule, or be detoured by narrow-mindedness.
We have fought a courageous battle with a force that is often fatal-we are recovering addicts.