Search for:
Addiction advocacy and the inspiration paradox: A reflection at 6 years sober

Today I am 6 years sober from addiction. During those six years I have learnt many lessons, but in this reflection I would like to consider something that has played on my mind for the past three years of my advocacy work.


While not overtly a bad thing, it is often misused to infantilise and minimise the achievements of disabled people while hiding behind a mask of feigned respect. This phenomenon is known as “inspiration porn”.

A good (hypothetical) example of such a thing would be a video of a disabled person doing something completely mundane, like dancing, but they would be dancing with a non-disabled person. The video would centre the non-disabled as some kind of saviour to the disabled person for doing something as basic as treating them like a human being. The implication of the video, albeit in subtext, would be “Look at the amazing things that disabled people can achieve when an abled person rescues them from their shameful existence”.

It’s dehumanising and wrong.

So, addiction advocacy.

As a recovering addict in the public eye, I do what I do because I want to help others overcome similar challenges to my own, and help reduce their suffering. This does in fact require inspiring people. If it weren’t for the sober addict who showed me kindness during my first stretch on a psychiatric ward, I might not have chosen recovery.

The fact that they had turned their life around, and become someone I wanted to look up to was inspiring, and that isn’t a bad thing.

What would be bad would be if people like myself are allowed to become another source of inspiration porn. It’s a difficult line to walk. I want people to have what I have found, not get off on the tragedies that have formed who I am.

Contrary to popular belief, addicts are people. We are not burdens, we don’t deserve our suffering. Regardless of whether or not we are in recovery, we deserve food, housing, health care, support, and kindness.

This is what I want to inspire in people.

So please, don’t look at me and think it’s a miracle that I recovered. My recovery shouldn’t be the inspiration. I was privileged to have a loving and supportive set of family and friends. I had good key workers (although the services they came from were woefully ill-equipped). I was in a place where I was ready to enter recovery.

What I want to inspire in you is the idea that all addicts deserve recovery. I want to inspire you to challenge the systems that keep people like me trapped in a world of suffering.

I want you to know that those with less privilege than myself need us to get in the trenches and help them fight this war.

If that is what I inspire in people, then I am happy with what I am doing. If, however, you look at me and see a walking miracle, then I have not gone far enough.

The tragedies and traumas of my life should not be celebrated. They should be wielded as weapons to dismantle the masters house, and rebuild it into something where we can all coexist and thrive.

This one’s for you Spectrum 10k

I am angry. I am beyond angry.

I am angry, tired, sad, stressed, and quite frankly, sickened to my core.

Since S10k was announced, I have watched as their blithe request for our DNA has traumatised a community that I love beyond measure.

My friends and colleagues have poured their heart into fighting your (not so covert) eugenics program. I have shared in their triumph, I have shared in their sadness.

I have shared in their horror.

You, S10k, have traumatised an entire minority group. You have taken our emotions, and laid them bare for the vultures.

Enough is enough. Your blatant attempt to pacify us with generic platitudes and promises of doing better are not enough.

We will not stop, we will not back down.

This fight has taken touch from us, but we continue to fight so that a future generation of Autistics may exist.

We fight so that future generations don’t have to.

I refuse to stand by while people I care about suffer at your hands. Your team, S10k, are a constant threat to our wellbeing.

We will interrupt your attempts to erase us.

We are proudly Autistic, not diseased, not damaged. We are the answer to the question “what’s the difference?” We are a beautiful minority.

We are not your play things.

Lessons I have learned about trauma

I haven’t spoken extensively about it, but my life has been one of extensive trauma. Not necessarily one consistently traumatic experience (although I’ve had my share), no, I have been- as most would put it- very unlucky. I have rolled from one traumatic experience to another.

These traumas set the stage for my mental health problems and addiction issues. As one psychologist put it “it was inevitable that you would experience psychosis and addiction”. I often wonder what life would have been like had I learned to process my trauma from an early age.

That leads nicely into my first lesson. You can not spend your life wondering about the “what if?” of your past. No amount of bargaining will make traumatic events unhappen. We must accept our pasts and learn to grow and move forward.

Another lesson I have learned is that trauma leaves you with psychological wounds. If left to fester, those wounds will form obvious scars that may appear in increasingly unsettled behaviour. For the sake of not perpetuating our trauma, we must allow ourselves the time, space, and resources to heal. Perhaps the hardest lesson we learn is that we are worthy of the time it takes to heal.

A difficult, but necessary lesson that I have learned, is that we don’t have the right to act out the effects of our trauma on other people. There was a time when I took my suffering out on others. Once again, this perpetuates trauma, leading to generation upon generation experiencing increased suffering.

It was necessary for me to take time away from the world, and look into the darkest recesses of my own being. I had to root out my triggers, and learn to coexist with them, slowly desensitising. This has been an imperfect, and at times messy, process. I am still coming to terms with a lot of the trauma I have been through. It’s okay to admit that you are working on stuff.

The greatest lesson that I have learned, however, was to be kind to people. Altruism feeds the proverbial soul, and whilst kindness costs very little (in general), the rewards are extensive. I could not have reached the place of strength that I am at in my recovery without learning to be kind.

Love yourself, love your scars. Love every part of you that survived the traumas you have faced. We are all worthy of healing, and we all have the capacity to make a difference in our own lives. Our individual experiences give rise to the great beauty of our diversity, and I believe that is something to be celebrated.

Verified by MonsterInsights