Emily Bradley

@emily-bradley | contributor
Emily Bradley is grateful to be living in recovery. She is passionate about sharing her story, and hopes it will inspire others.
Emily Bradley

Why Carrie Fisher Is My Hero Even After News of Her Autopsy Report

When I learned Carrie Fisher had died, I was heartbroken. I’m a huge fan of Star Wars, and I didn’t want to imagine a world without Princess Leia. That wasn’t the only reason I was devastated, though. I am also an addict in long-term recovery. I spent my early recovery trying to find people who spoke to me: Celebrities, authors, doctors — anybody. Anything to feel like I was part of something, and not alone in the world. On a friend’s recommendation, I watched Carrie’s one woman show, “Wishful Drinking.” I laughed, I cried… I eventually ordered every book she’d written. I couldn’t get enough of Carrie Fisher. After her death, I started buying copies of her books for my friends. I wanted to keep spreading her humor and light. I felt like she knew how to say things about mental illness and addiction that I hadn’t been able to put into words. Recently, her autopsy report was released, revealing drug use in her final days. So a friend said to me, “I guess she’s not your hero anymore.” I had to take a second to process that. To assume she couldn’t relapse would be to assume she was infallible. We want to believe we can’t screw it all up, but, I know in my heart that none of us is perfect. Addiction is a chronic disease. That’s why you have to take it one day at a time. Every single day is its own challenge. I wouldn’t know how to explain that to someone who doesn’t struggle with addiction ( Though Carrie did — read “Postcards from the Edge”). Addiction can rob you of everything. For me, it’s always there in the background, waiting for me to drop my guard. There have been so many times in my few short years of recovery that I’ve almost blown it. I also can’t pretend to understand the mental state of Carrie, who is someone I’ve never met… We will never know what she was going through. When I think of Carrie Fisher, I see a strength not many of us have. She was brave enough to share her journey with us, and speak out against the crushing stigma. She was so beautiful, wise and talented. It was almost easy to forget she was also human. A human, who struggled with addiction. I’ll tell you what I can’t forget. I can’t forget the despair I felt before I got help. I can’t forget how alone I felt, walking into a mental hospital to stay for a few months. In my experience, there’s a lot of shame and loneliness involved in being an addict. I also can’t forget how much better I felt upon reading Carrie’s words. She spoke to me and for me, and she was so wonderfully funny and smart about it. “No,” I told my friend, after a long silence. “She’ll always be my hero.” If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo via Wiki Commons.

Emily Bradley

Making Alcohol Jokes Around an Alcoholic

A while ago, I was at a picnic. It didn’t take long before people were joking that adult beverages were needed, and everyone laughed… everyone except me. Now, I’m not a humorless person, I laugh all the time. I just don’t think those jokes are funny. Every single day, more than once a day, someone around me will mention alcohol. There’s a constant barrage of advertising, internet memes, drink recipes, casual jokes. I’m not a person who needs a trigger warning, but I really wish it all would stop sometimes. Let’s set the scene. I am an alcoholic. For me, drinking was fun for about five minutes, back in high school. I think I had a normal teenaged love-hate relationship with the drug until I was an adult. When I was 19, I woke up one day feeling crappy. The crappy feeling just wouldn’t go away. It stuck around all summer, dragging me down. I was suddenly terrible at my job. I was becoming apathetic. I didn’t know it, but I was depressed. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, hadn’t the faintest clue how to fix anything. My depression worsened, and as that happened, anxiety bubbled up and reared its ugly head. After a few years of feeling lost and alone, I found a lot of friends who were interested in drinking and partying. Things spiraled out of control around me, and I just watched it all go by. I wasn’t having fun, though. I’d have fun in the moment, sure, but the bad feeling was always lurking around the corner. I can see now I was trying to chase it away. At 21, I left home. This gave me the freedom to drink every night without fear of judgment. So that is exactly what I did. I drank to feel nothing instead of feeling bad. Alcohol became my crutch. Fast forward several years of addiction and misery, and I had a breakdown. Finally, two years later, I found myself in recovery. As my mind and body recovered from the hell I’d put it through, my concurrent disorders slowly became manageable. Today, I’m open about my recovery. I don’t lead with that when I’m introduced to someone, but I don’t hide it either. Sharing has helped me learn how widespread the problem of addiction is. Every time I tell someone I’ve been to treatment, they tell me about how their dad went to rehab and they never told anyone, or their sister is an addict and they don’t know what to do, or they’ve lost someone as a result of alcoholism… the list goes on. Everyone I speak to seems to have a story about addiction negatively affecting their lives. So why do we make these drinking jokes? I believe it’s because the topic is uncomfortable, and there’s still a lot of stigma. Personally, I had a fear of telling anyone about my addiction for many years, and that was because I felt like people saw addicts as pleasure-seekers. I wasn’t having fun, though. That was important. I was just trying to function in a world where I didn’t even know how to get out of bed. If you are one of those people who jokes casually about how they need a drink to get through the day, please consider this. The person you’re talking to may be trying not to drink. They may have an addict in their family. Statistically, they probably do! They know someone, somewhere, somehow, and addiction has touched their life. Maybe a simple joke doesn’t affect them negatively, but maybe it does. Maybe they’ll even laugh – I did it for years. I faked a laugh as I felt more and more alone. Addiction affects more people than we realize. If we can educate each other and think twice about making jokes, the stigma won’t stand a chance. Image via Thinkstock.

Emily Bradley

The Most Important Things I've Learned in Recovery From Addiction

I’m a 32-year-old with anxiety and depression, and I have been living in recovery from addiction for just over a year. I went into recovery without knowing much about it. Here are some of the important lessons I have learned. 1. I needed to want it more than anything. When I started rehab, I assumed everyone else was on the same page as me. This was not the case. People are in rehab for many reasons, and some of them might not be ready to quit. They could be there for their families, legal reasons, health, et cetera — not necessarily because they want to get better. For me, there was no option other than recovery. 2. You can’t judge another person’s recovery. I was a bit surprised to see the judgment of others within the recovery community. Some people look down on those who don’t go to 12-step meetings. Some don’t approve of replacement drugs. I’ve seen someone quit a recovery program altogether, because she claimed there was too much judgment and drama involved. I find it easier not to judge anyone. We’re all in this together, after all, with a common goal of living free of addictions. With this attitude, I’ve made some unlikely but wonderful friends. 3. The stigma around addiction is still present. I am lucky that I haven’t had too many bad experiences with the stigma surrounding addiction, personally, but I still see it all the time. In particular, I have noticed a lot of people in recovery do not advertise they’re in recovery. There’s still a lot of shame attached to addictions. I need to recover out loud. I feel like I have a responsibility to help others who might be suffering in silence, like I did for so many years. I believe the only way to solve the stigma problem is to talk about recovery. 4. There’s more than one way to recover from addictions. When I was in rehab, I was told to go to 12-step meetings. These are great for some people, but they might not be for everyone. There is a lot of pressure to get a sponsor and work the steps. I like to say my sponsor is a committee — family and friends, my therapist, an addictions counselor, various doctors, a psychiatrist. I like the odd meeting, and they’re awesome for finding friends who don’t drink, but I have a bit of an issue with the concept of anonymity. I will always respect the anonymity of others, but I believe it perpetuates stigma, so I don’t go to a lot of 12-step meetings. I engage in many other recovery-friendly activities and try to live a fairly healthy lifestyle, and it’s working for me! 5. Recovery really is possible. For a long time, I figured I wouldn’t bother quitting drinking because what was the point? I’d just go back to drinking again eventually, like always. I didn’t know any other way, and I thought I was too old to learn. I am happy to report I was wrong. It’s been a year and a quarter, and I’m still going strong. I’ve met so many people who have been in recovery for several years. If anyone reading this is struggling and feels hopeless, I want you to know an addiction doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I never even imagined I could be as happy as I am today. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images