In an excerpt from her novel “Drunk Mum” published on The Times, Polish writer Jowita Bydlowska recalls feeding both a newborn and her addiction to alcohol: “Because I don’t drink as much as I would at home and I generally don’t get too hungover after drinking, only once do I wake up sick enough to vomit into the toilet. My boyfriend and the baby are still asleep in the bedroom when this happens. Just in case, I puke over my fist to mask the sound.”
The excerpt is titled “Diary of a drunk mum,” and it is one in a slew of addiction confessionals published on the Internet, whether on reputable news sites or on user-generated blogs. Search the phrase “addiction confession” on Google and watch the results crop up by the tens and hundreds.
But we talk about admitting your addiction, about verbalising the painful truth so that you can begin to heal through addiction rehab. So, confessionals are productive. Aren’t they?
In the online edition of Humanities, a magazine published by the American grant-making agency The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Christine Rosen writes about “the confessional culture.” Ours is a culture where people freely divulge their faults and their struggles, confessions made louder by social media and reality television where users can describe their addictions for audiences of friends and strangers.
But here is the problem; in presenting one’s addiction to a large audience, an event possible only in this era of Twitter and Facebook, don’t those addicted to alcohol and substances (those who desperately need to enter drug addiction treatment), become more concerned with a public image than an inner health?
Rosen writes that the goal of addiction rehab for recovering addicts is “not to wallow in self-pity or to mine their inner lives for public consumption, but simply to change their behavior for the better.” It’s an inward search, not an outward display.
The confessional may be counterproductive then, creating a culture where it is more important to present an image of your addiction than to understand it and begin to heal from it. It is still important to tell close family and friends about your struggle with addiction. But to shout your addiction? It might be an act that undoes all the hard work of addiction rehab.