We gain many gifts as we come into the world of recovery, many of these have more to do with finding a new way to live than any material things—honesty, perseverance, courage, and so on. However, one of the most important principles, and possibly one of the most overlooked, is open-mindedness. After all, recovery is itself opening our eyes to the possibility of another way of life, that maybe our ways and what we know may be a little skewed. As we practice open-mindedness, we open ourselves to new ideas and to modes of thought that allow us to recover and to continue recovering for the rest of our lives.
Unfortunately, not everybody likes to think this way. The sad truth is that, as addicts, there is always a stigma we will need to contend with. Recovery in the face of societal acceptance is, and always has been, an uphill battle. Our coworkers or anybody else that we interact with on a daily basis maybe doesn’t see us as this recovering person with three, four, five months clean. They still see us as a junky who could go off the deep end at any moment. This is one of the reasons why twelve step fellowships hold anonymity in such high regard; it’s simply the reality of how we are seen.
The tattoo community can relate all too well. Sure, tattoos are becoming more fashionable, maybe one or two that can be covered up easily enough. But that guy with the full sleeve? Or that women with the chest piece and neck tattoo. Obviously they sell guns and smack in a biker gang, right? Well, no they probably don’t. More likely they are regular people that just happen to like getting tattoos. Even still, this isn’t the public conception, and these regular people who have to work just that much harder to be taken seriously as real people.
As of this writing, there is no government mandate that says everybody needs to be completely open-minded and is not allowed to judge anybody upon first seeing them ever. In the meantime, the only thing we can do is to lead by example. By showing what recovery has let us become, or for the tattooed person that the way we look says nothing of our character, we can hope to perhaps one day be seen as the ordinary people that we all are.