In de vorige uitgave van Lef stond een mooi interview met Tom Goris, oprichter van Wegens plaatsgebrek moesten we zijn interview flink inkorten en dat vonden we zonde. Want Tom plaatst prachtige foto's en interviews van mensen die ontzettend trots zijn op hun herstel. Dus hier het volledige interview met Tom in het Engels en kijk vooral even op zijn prachtige website!

Why did you start this website?

The website was started to pay forward the love and support which was so freely given to me very early on in my recovery. In the beginning, I was moments away from dying until another person in recovery extended his hand of hope to show me there is another easier way out. I was given the gift of recovery from that man and from the men that passed it along to him. What kind of a man would I be if I loved the gift more than the giver? From day one, I understood it was my duty to give away what was so freely given to me. I figured repaying my gift on the world stage would be the best way for me to pay it forward. The website is a vessel for the IANA family, my girlfriend, and I to pay forward the gifts we have been so freely given in our recovery.

Do you think it’s important for recovering addicts to talk about their addiction openly? 

Yes, absolutely! I feel this way because of my recovery experiences. One major factor to sustaining my recovery is being open and honest with whom I am to everyone. After admitting to myself, I am a drug addict, I had a decision to make. Either own it or tuck it away and bring it out when I felt safe. This is a major decision to make personally and not many make it themselves. Family, Friends, councilors, random people in your recovery environment share their feelings which spark fear, resentments, uncomfortability, and selfishness when considering an open recovery. As a result, it creates a brain exhaust which I call noise. I feel this noise is the direct result of people remaining anonymous. Luckily, this noise fogged my thought process initially only for a short time when it came to being open with my recovery. There were two reasons why I still chose to be open. The first was an understanding and self-knowledge that if someone felt a certain way toward me, it didn’t mean I had to share their feelings. I’ll never forget the freeing feeling I had when I put this knowledge into action. Instantly I was empowered and freed from another person’s judgment and projections. This was a major step in my recovery because I cared so deeply about what other people thought of me. My sports upbringing and success at a young age conditioned my ego early on to seek out people’s approval. I never knew anything different other than my lived experiences which was made up of people telling me how great I was and enabling me to do as I pleased without any consequences. The second was when I admitted to myself who I was, a drug addict. I’ll never forget the weight which came off of my body. It felt as if I was a rocket ship taking off to outer space, destination unknown. Being the addict I am I feel in love with this feel good feeling. For 15 years I was in denial justifying why I wasn’t and couldn’t be a drug addict, but in that moment pure freedom came over me. I relate it to a homosexual person admitting to themselves for the first time that they are homosexual after years of trying everything not to be while striving with every ounce of their soul to be the perfect heterosexual society expects them to be. People go a lifetime not knowing who they are. Imagine after a lifetime of fighting not to be the person you are and in an instant through self-acceptance you find out exactly who you are without any consequences, with no more fear of the unknown, and everything is okay; actually it’s better than okay, it’s so empowering a passion and drive was sparked within me like I’ve never known. I felt overtaken, as if another power was in control of my soul and all I could do was embrace it and enjoy the ride. I had arrived only five days into my recovery journey. I had found myself and ultimately my life’s purpose which is to use my face and my voice to show the world recovery happens and with recovery anything is possible. As a result of being open with my recovery it has presented me with a life full of opportunities and benefits I would never have known otherwise.

Are you against anonymity?

No, my understanding of anonymity applies in two ways. The first type of anonymity is personal anonymity and the other applies toward the 12 step fellowships. In relation to personal anonymity I feel it is the choice of each person to be anonymous or not. Many other factors go into the decision to be anonymous like consideration to family members and friends, fear of losing the ability to be employed, but in all honesty by me making the decision not to be anonymous I understood I could potentially save another person’s life and be a societal change agent. The consequence of not breaking my anonymity is what I feared. For me, I’ll choose super hero status over being a cartoon villain who remains anonymous out of uncomfortability and fear, any day. When I think of not being anonymous strength of character is my preceding thought. Today, I live my life kicking down doors not hiding behind them.

 As for the12 Step anonymity tradition (the spiritual foundation of the program), it’s my understanding it was created to encompass a level playing field when individuals entered the fellowship to recover. I feel it is crucial this type of anonymity remain intact. The issue I have is with 12 step members and not with 12 step anonymity and the traditions. My issue lies with their ideological misconceptions (also known as dogma) that being a member of a fellowship means you can’t talk about your recovery outside their walls, and by not speaking about your recovery it makes you a good 12 step fellowship student since you didn’t break the traditions. When I first entered the fellowship I felt I had to remain anonymous and I didn’t have a personal choice which was a direct result of the 12 step member’s ideological misconceptions projected onto me. It made me feel dirty, shameful, and extremely frustrated. Truth is the fellowship speaks about spreading the message of recovery outside the rooms in their basic text known as the Big Book. Truth is as long as you refrain from mentioning the fellowship you have achieved recovery in, you are not breaking the traditions. Truth is your personal anonymity is completely separate from the 12 step fellowships and you can publicly speak about your recovery in a respectful way that doesn’t cause controversy within 12 step land, it’s called advocacy with anonymity (Marty Mann, Bill Wilsons first sponsee was the pioneer of advocacy with anonymity). So, obviously there is major confusion within 12 step fellowships as to how anonymity applies and I feel the spiritual foundation of the program has become so convoluted and distorted it has hurt more people than it has helped. When was the last time you made a traditions meeting? Imagine people worked the fellowship traditions as often as the steps. I feel people don’t because they want to help themselves and not others or they are caught up with helping others in the room they never look outside of them. It’s a program for selfish fearful people with a goal of becoming a selfless fearless person and this can be achieved by taking honest action while completing each step. When attempting to complete each step the ideology to practice the principals of the program in all of our affairs was hammered into me. I feel 12 step members confuse anonymity as a principal and practice it as so. I don’t know, maybe the result would be a better recovery if they made a traditions meeting and understood the true meaning of anonymity as it was originally intended. Maybe that’s why Bill W. added the traditions, to improve upon a person’s recovery and give them more guidance not just to protect the fellowship as a whole. I know when 12 step fellowships tell us we are as sick as our secrets, it means to me that remaining anonymous will keep me sick. The fellowship rooms are a safe place to go and talk about ours secrets. In my experience, so is telling my secrets on a public level. You see it’s not about me. It’s about paying it forward and having opportunities to help another alcoholic/addict. I don’t know, breaking my anonymity just came so easy for me. In my eyes the consequences of breaking my anonymity will never outweigh the consequences of not doing so. I view it as a gift and I’m so grateful to the giver that I’ll never stop paying it forward on a public level.

Do you think anonymity can harm recovering addicts?

Good question. Let me start by saying I understand why the decision is made to remain anonymous. To your question,yes, from my experience personal anonymity is something that many recovering addicts hold on to out of fear. The fears range from potential consequences to the fear of the unknown.  For me, by not being anonymous the fear provided a vessel for growth. All I had to do is open up my recovery toolshed and push through the fear by taking action while using my recovery tools as a solution to any problem. Every time I have been faced with fear and pushed through with action something happened. I felt an overwhelming empowering feeling and when I looked back I saw personal growth. To the contrary, with anonymity comes comfortability for many. In my opinion, comfortability limits a person’s potential for growth. When trying to achieve my dream of long term recovery I was asked early on if I would be willing to do whatever it took. My response was, yes. Breaking my personal anonymity was a major decision and boy was it uncomfortable and out of the norm. However, I can say today since I have taken the road less traveled that I’ve been rewarded with gifts less given.

What do you want to achieve with your website?

At first I just wanted to help one person, but when I achieve a goal it’s time to reevaluate and set the bar higher. Today, I would like to achieve a societal physic change resulting in the stigma being smashed. That would be Epic. We all have dreams and that is one of mine. It’s sad I have to have this dream, but the majority of the world views addiction as a moral failing and a choice. I’d be happy if the website is seen as a tool to gain knowledge and understanding so loved ones can take action and apply it to their life situations resulting in a changed ideology toward addiction enabling better services for the sick and suffering as a whole.

Do you think it is important for your recovery to be proud of your recovery and I mean proud in an open way. Do you think it’s possible to be proud of your recovery when you don’t want people to know you are in recovery?

My first though is “Gay pride” when being asked this question. In the U.S.A. Gay Pride has resulted in a societal physic change toward homosexuality. Could a homosexual person be proud of their homosexuality and still be anonymous publicly? Yes, absolutely. Can a person in recovery be proud of their recovery and still be anonymous publicly? Yes, absolutely. However, for me and looking at the “Gay Pride” history in the U.S.A. there is a sense of self-acceptance on a level which is not known by the proud but anonymous group. This level of self-acceptance is fearless, so fearless that society views us asking for equal rights as inconsiderate, rude, and intolerant. For the National recovery movement in the U.S.A. it too comes down to equal rights and services. I feel one of the only ways for the recovery movement to be successful is by non-anonymous unification bringing together not only people in recovery, but the families in recovery and the recovery supporters while organizing in a controlled fearless aggression for years on end. This is when the societal physic change will start to happen. For me, in paying it forward I shed my cloak of anonymity because I can help so much more as a proud man in recovery than remaining an anonymous proud man in recovery. There is proud and there is “loud and proud.” In my experience I would never feel comfortable not being loud and proud.

How do fellows react to your website?

It all depends. Most are overwhelmed by the sheer power in a positive way. Many read the stories on a daily basis to relate and not feel alone. Mothers have written in and told us how amazing the site is and they wish it was around before their son or daughter had passed. Some take offense as a result of misconceptions regarding 12 step fellowship traditions. Basically, for the ones who take offense, it all depends on how open their mind is and if they are willing to see another side to what they have been taught or to detach from what they have been taught in the 12 step program. Detaching from the only solution which has worked is a scary though for many. Truth is, the solution never leaves you, but the misconceptions do. I learned very early in recovery that doing the uncomfortable as often as possible will result in rapid change and personal growth. All I did for 15 years in active addiction was what felt comfortable.  I only knew what I knew until I practiced honesty, willingness, and open-mindedness. As a result of clearing the wreckage of my past seeing the world in a different light soon became reality. I think that is exactly what the website is, a new light. When a light shines really bright some people will be enamored and some will be annoyed. Truth is the light we shine is a light of hope. To the ones who are annoyed by the light of hope I say, to thine own self be true.

Do you think it is time the twelve steps/twelve traditions need a little update (some of the steps/traditions are a bit old fashioned maybe)?

No, defiantly not. I think the steps and traditions should be left intact. I think the conception of recovery as a whole needs a major reform. The problem is not with the 12 step fellowship needing to be updated, it’s with our ideology needing to be updated. The fellowship is viewed as the only accepted pathway to achieving recovery. This idea needs to be smashed immediately! There are many other pathways to sustaining long term recovery like faith, love, smart recovery, grandma locked you in your room for 90 days, or you did it on your own, etc. The IANA project is open to all pathways into recovery and as a result my recovery has benefited by practicing what I have taken away from the people I’ve met. For me recovery is not just about putting down the drugs and alcohol. Yes, I do have to abstain from them to remain in recovery according to the 12 step fellowships, but not everyone in recovery has taken the pathway of the fellowship. For me, recovery is as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential. Can you achieve this lifestyle and not abstain? Yes, you can. I have not tried, but there are people who live their lives in recovery without abstaining. If anything the 12 step fellowship ideology of having to abstain creates a stigma toward people who relapse. As a result, the cycle of addiction is perpetuated within the 12 step fellowship and many continue to suffer by the hand of abstinence. Furthermore, the original message of the 12 step fellowship has become convoluted. It’s a simple message being taught by complicated people resulting in the Purple-Monkey-Dishwasher effect. I think it would be a major benefit to the people who are sick and suffering if the 12 step fellowships cleaned up their message. You didn’t ask me how they would achieve this so I’ll leave it at that.





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