Her story of addiction is pretty common, but her recovery depended on how she told that story.

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Jo Harvey used to tell her story of dependence in a dirty and dark manner.

When Jo was 7 it began. On a hiking excursion, she was given her first drink. She enjoyed the flavor, and by the time she was 12, she’d experimented with more alcohol and other substances. In high school, she was introduced to cocaine. She became a party girl, one who didn”t recall most crazy nighttime and corkscrew into a heavy dependence to substances and alcohol.

Finally, she went in for treatment and gave up the drugs. In the past few years since, Jo not only has been sober, but she”s dedicated her life to helping others through similar challenges. Now, Jo is finishing a doctorate while working to develop drug and alcohol abuse prevention plans for her university.

She tells her story as the story of a battle that saved her.

The difference between those two narratives isn”t in the facts of her life — those didn”t change. But how she tells the story now is drastically different as it is not any longer dripping with remorse and shame. Jo used to be embarrassed that she wasn”t the perfect all American girl that her great levels and pretty look led folks to trust. She was embarrassed that she was fighting with substance abuse and that she’d succumbed to dependence. And that shame and remorse shaped how she lived her life.

Did Jo take as much remorse and shame around her habit? One variable might have been her sex.

Laura Blum, Nancy Nielsen, and Joseph Riggs prepared a review for the American Medical Association”s Council on Scientific Affairs. In it, they describe the social perspectives about girls and alcoholism along with their exceptional obstacles to treatment.

  • Girls who drink excessively are stigmatized as “normally and sexually immoral.” That blot could be internalized by friends, family, health care providers, and even girls themselves, who become more likely to deny their alcohol abuse.
  • This results in an “under-acknowledgement of drinking issues in girls until they’ve reached an advanced phase. Fear of stigmatization may lead girls to deny they are experiencing a health condition, to conceal their drinking, and to drink alone.”

GIF via TEDx.

Jo thinks the best technique for healing comes to the narratives we tell.

To be able to fix, she needed to shake the shame, stigma, and fear to come out on the other side and discuss her true story: one of pain and distress, positive, but also of healing and stamina. Now, she’s this to say about those who are experiencing dependency:

“They matter and are worth fighting for. Even the deepest wounds can heal, and at any moment we can let go of our shame and locate peace.”


Observe Jo discuss her empowering narrative in her very own words:


What do you think?