AfterParty Hero: The Addict and His Photographer Girlfriend Who Tackle the Stigma of Addiction
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AfterParty Hero: The Addict and His Photographer Girlfriend Who Tackle the Stigma of Addiction


This post was originally published on November 3, 2014.

Kate Meyer has come a long way since photographing weddings in New York; her boyfriend Tom has, too. He’s new in recovery (less than a year, actually), and together they’ve created the portrait photography website IAmNotAnonymous, which is a simple layout of black-and-white close-ups of alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery. Their mission is simple (and rather similar to the AfterParty one): to inspire and to give hope.

Before getting sober, Tom, a former successful athlete, specialized in coke and opiates. He was obsessed with feeling different, specifically getting rid of the anger that didn’t faze him during his teenage arrests or when he chased year-old highs and did anything to get them. After he checked in to an inpatient rehab in Florida and came home a changed man, Meyer saw the transformation one day at a time.

What happened next is what was the inspiration for the site.

The strong opinions and negativity directed towards Kate and Tom’s relationship after he came clean about having to come clean hurt her. Tom never stole or got violent. He suffered a mental disease of grandiosity and parallel insecurity stemming from early success in sports and the immaturity to deal with it. Successful athletes at a young age are enabled by adults and looked up to by their peers. This doesn’t usually work out well for mature adults, let alone alcoholics like Tom.

Kate saw the way friends and family threw judgment at Tom once he transitioned from star athlete to addict and realized that the stigma attached to addiction is outdated and petty. She stresses that addicts don’t start with lines of cocaine or needles of heroin but amongst friends with plastic red cups where nobody knows they’re going to become an addict while experimenting like society tells them it’s okay to do. Kate says that the unavoidable shame and negative stigma is a primary factor in people not wanting to admit their problem and ask for help. She goes on to say that when it comes to addiction, everyone is caught up with the problem and not the solution. And she wants to do her part to end this by starting to talk about the solution as well as the problem. The positive outcomes of people in recovery is what Kate and Tom want to share so that people in need see it and are inspired to do something to change.

Tom and Kate’s goal of showing people about recovery and addiction from it from a positive perspective is fresh air in a negativity-saturated world. Tom cites after-school specials and the “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” commercials with the eggs as examples of media that reinforces the concept that addicts are bad. He believes that it may not have taken him 15 years to get sober and ask for help if the world at large had said some nice things once in a while about alcoholics and drug addicts. Tom takes from the HIV/AIDS epidemic’s slogan of “Silence = Death” and applies it perfectly to addiction. He and Kate just want to inspire. And it’s working.

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About Author

Carlos Herrera is a comedian, photographer and writer whose work can also be found on The Fix . He has been featured in LA Weekly and has performed at The Hollywood Improv among other places.