Written By: Fiona Stockard

Let Me Paint You a Picture

The scene opens on beautiful Delray Beach, Florida. It’s a cool summer evening. The breeze blows just right.

tattooed woman

Three women stand in a Publix parking lot. Woman one is me, your spunky narrator, Fiona Stockard. Woman two is elderly, maybe seventy-five. She has white hair and wrinkles. She could be your grandmother. Woman three is maybe twenty-one. She’s covered from head to toe in tattoos and wearing nothing but a tank top, booty shorts, and a backwards hat. A cigarette dangles from her lips.

The tattooed woman grabs a motorized shopping cart and starts driving around in circles. She’s bored and restless, you can tell from her expression.

The elderly woman starts hollering at the tattooed woman. “Hey, hey…hey,” she yells. The tattooed woman keeps driving in circles.

“F**king drug addicts, this town is full of ‘em,” the elderly woman mutters. She walks off into the night.

St. Paul, Minnesota

Two women, both in their early twenties, wait for the bus. It’s a brisk morning, both are sipping coffee. Steam rises from their cups. Both have recently checked into a halfway house. Both are out looking for jobs.


Woman one, let’s call her Jenny. Jenny has on ironed black pants and a light charcoal blazer. She’s wearing heels, not too high, and carrying a briefcase. Her hair is styled perfectly.

Woman two, let’s call her Tabitha. Tabitha has on a band tee shirt, ripped jeans, and ratty shoes. She hasn’t showered in days. Her hair looks more like a bird’s nest than anything else.

That night, in process-group, both go over their day. I sit among the rest of the women, bemused, pretty sure I know what’s going to happen next. Tabitha’s furious. “I got on the bus and someone tried to sell me crack! This town sucks. I can’t stay sober here! Every day it’s the same thing! ‘Want to get high?’ or ‘I got what you need, let’s party.’ This town is full of drug addicts!”

The therapist turns to Jenny. He asks how many times Jenny was offered crack. None, she responds. The therapist turns back to Tabitha. “You’re offered crack because you look like you smoke crack, Tabitha!”

The Moral Of The Story

Although I write a pretty killer dramatic monologue, both of these events actually occurred. I was there and witnessed firsthand why the stigma around addiction exists.

See, the rest of the world thinks addicts and alcoholics are bad people because of people like tattooed woman and Tabitha. We need to “practice these principals in all our affairs.” All of our affairs! Tattooed woman had about nine months sober, yet she acted like she was actively getting high. This hurts our entire recovery community!

The local Delray Beach Government is trying to pass anti-recovery legislation because of people like tattooed woman! Her dumb s**t only adds fuel to the fire. If you don’t act (or for that matter look) like a woman in recovery, you might as well keep getting high.

My parents told me they knew I’d changed when my words met my actions. Tattooed woman and Tabitha both sounded great at meetings. They seemed to have a grasp on sobriety. They could talk the talk. Still, they looked like s**t. They acted like s**t. They didn’t walk the walk.

Had tattooed woman or Tabitha told any innocent bystander they were in recovery, we all would’ve been f**ked. If someone had no contact with other recovering addicts, they’d associated tattooed woman and Tabitha’s behavior with the entire program. This hurts us now and will hurt us in the future.

Let me paint you one final picture. Remember that elderly woman? The one who could be your grandma? Well, she has a daughter. Her daughter works as a hiring manager at Publix. One day, Jane Doe walks into Publix and asks for a job. She tells the hiring manager that she’s in recovery. You bet your sweet a** the hiring manager is going to remember the story her mother told her about tattooed woman.

Act like a recovering addict, not like an active drug addict. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to the rest of us.

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