Most of you probably associate the phrase “born this way” with Lady Gaga’s song. One of the things I love about Lady Gaga is she so unabashedly loves and accepts herself and she encourages others to do the same. Her song, and subsequent foundation, center primarily on LGBTQ youth but there are another sect who were “born this way.” Addicts. I’ve been tip-toeing around this for years, but I’m finally going to say it: I’m an addict. I just broke a bunch of rules by announcing that to the world, so before I go further, please know I don’t speak on behalf of anyone, I’m not representative of any organization. I can only tell you about me and my experience.
It may surprise some of you to hear I’m an addict considering I don’t drink or do drugs, there are no track lines on my arms. From the outside I look pretty “normal.” But I very much am an addict. In my post from a few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve been crying off and on now that my book Just a Girl from Kansas has been sent to friends and family members. After talking with a good friend, I realized it’s because I’ve felt deeply ashamed. I’ve felt ashamed of revealing to the entire world my private thoughts and behaviors. I’ve been ashamed to let people know I’m an addict. That’s probably because there’s still a stigma attached to addicts. They’re often portrayed in the media as engaging in risky behavior or otherwise self-destructing. There are very few positive role models for addicts. I think it’s because there is an air of secrecy, of anonymity. And the anonymity can breed shame because if you don’t tell people, if they’re not supposed to know, isn’t like you have a dirty little secret?
I’m writing this post because I’ve heard so many people this week talk about how ashamed they feel of being an addict, myself included. How it’s a terrible, awful thing that no one but other addicts can know about. The disease becomes a moral issue, makes me a “bad” person. I’m writing this post for other addicts, and for anyone else who thinks they have to be ashamed of who they are. I’m here to tell you the person who smokes pot, the person who pays for sex, the person who drowns themselves in alcohol, or gambles away their life savings is not a bad person. They’re a person in pain. None of those people, myself included, chose to be this way. Nobody likes the fact they feel compelled to do something like pull food from the garbage can and eat it. Nobody wants to admit to that. We were born this way.
I am not a bad person. I’m a very good person. My creator made me this way so how can I say it’s something to be ashamed of. Do you tell a lily to be ashamed it smells the way it does? Do you tell a cat to be ashamed it likes to chase mice? So why should I be ashamed of the way that I am? I really can’t help it. Instead of wasting so much time and energy “hiding” my secret or berating myself for who I am, I’d rather practice love and acceptance. I’d rather say, this is who I am, and who I am is just fine. Because it is. Because I was born this way.
I dream of a world where we all feel loved and accepted for who we are. A world where we know we were all born the way we are and there’s no need to feel ashamed of it. A world where we treat everyone with compassion because behind their words and actions probably lies a person in a lot of pain. A person who wants to know it’s safe for me them to be themselves. I dream of a world where that person knows that it is safe to be who they are because who they are is beautiful. Because they were born that way.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.