▶️ Confronting the Stigma of Addiction: A Personal Story

By Matt McDonald
Central Oregon Daily

There are many ways to define success: A flourishing career.  A family that is thriving.  Holding a public position and being seen as the model of professionalism.  Jamie Christman had it all.

“At the Redmond Chamber I was the events director, at the Bend Chamber I was their V.P. of Government Affairs, Leadership and Workforce Development. I have three children – twins who just graduated from OSU and their older brother who lives in Hawaii,” said Christman.

But hidden from view for most of the people who saw Christman in the public eye was a long battle with with the disease of addiction.

“I needed a drink.  It was obsessive Matt.  It was, I never experienced anything like it. You try and control it and I did, off and on for year, but when I didn’t, I didn’t.  It came with blackouts, it came with issues,” said Christman.

One year sober, Christman is sharing her story to inspire others to seek help and to try and remove the stigma often attached with addiction, whether it be drugs, alcohol or something else entirely.

“It’s like cancer,” she said. “You don’t want to ever minimize cancer but the disease aspect of it is real, it’s life or death.  People die from this disease everyday.”

Confronted by a trusted friend and colleague, she sought help in 2018.  It came at a time she describes as the peak of her alcoholism, at one point getting two DUI’s in a week.  She spent about 40 days in jail.

“I lost my driving privileges, my car, my career, my home but I gained my entire life,” said Christman.

It proved a turning point.  Christman finally confronted, what she calls possibly her biggest obstacle, the shame of admitting she was an alcoholic.

“For me, it could be the number one barrier, you don’t want to think that’s really you, that you’re doing that,” she said.

In early September, Christman joined hundreds of others for the first ever Central Oregon Walk to Recover.

“We were looking for a way to bring people together to fight the stigma of addiction,” said Andrew Swanson from the group Oregon Recovers. “The more we change the narrative away from this is a moral failing and the fact that this is a chronic disease and a public health crisis, the better prepared we are to treat this as a state.”

According to Oregon Recovers, Oregon ranks in the Top 10 for addiction per capita but near the bottom for access to services. Their goal is to shine a light on the issue and hope stories like Jamie’s inspire others to find their own paths to recovery.

“I’m grateful to be there and be alive and be present, for my kids, for life, my friends, my family, it’s a completely different life,” Christman.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available.  Various public and private resources are available.  You can find a list at https://www.sharedfuturecoalition.org/resources/treatmentcounselingsupport/

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