Jan Brown Talks about TBI and Stigma

Jan Brown talks about the social stigmas associated with TBI and substance abuse.

I think the biggest thing, and it's huge, is this idea of stigma And to really help people celebrate the fact that recovery does happen. We used to look at this idea of we're going to combat the stigma, we're going to do this, and somewhere through the years I learned that we needed a positive message and that if we put all of our energy into breaking something and removing something, then we were going to come up empty. So one of our messages is really about that we do recover. And I know for myself, personally, once I really got a hold of this idea that I was never going to be who I was and that's okay, I was able to watch other people age. And so it's a very similar cycle that we all go through, and so we're really not special or unique in that, truly, something horrible happened to us. Whether it was alcohol or we got hit or we fell down or we were in a car crash, something happened. And make no mistake about that. The opportunity to acknowledge that and treat it and get what it is that we need in terms of help, and then be able to move from this identity of I'm an addict or I'm sober or I'm a survivor of an injury, to be able to say, "I live with--I'm in recovery from my brain injury." Today, these days, I introduce myself as a person in long-term recovery, which means that I haven't used drugs or alcohol for 20 years, and people clap. Years ago, I would say, "My name is Jan, and I'm an addict," and they'd kind of put their heads down. So it's just that shift is so amazingly different. And even with--I live with the results of a brain injury versus I'm a survivor of brain injury, it feels very different just in communicating that message. So a lot of it, I believe, starts with us because that's one of the other pieces. I want the system to change, and I want-- it still keeps me in this role of being a victim, or being less than. So I needed to begin to look at myself very different and the fact that I"m empowered and I'm thriving and those kinds of things. Because that's where the recovery and that's where the connection happens.
Posted on BrainLine August 5, 2009.