How One Former Heroin Addict And His Partner Are Fighting The Stigma Surrounding Addiction

When the word 'heroin' flashes up across your TV screen, it's often bad news.

Earlier this year the tragic deaths of Peaches Geldof and Philip Seymour Hoffman shocked the world, and in both cases heroin was either fully, or partly, to blame.

But there's another, largely untold, side to drug addiction that doesn't end in tragedy - and that is recovery.

Tom Goris, co-founder of I Am Not Anonymous

One powerful photo series hopes to challenge the negative perceptions surrounding those who have suffered from drug or alcohol addiction.

'I Am Not Anonymous' is a platform for former addicts to share their personal, and often emotional, stories.

The project was launched back in April by Tom Goris, a recovering heroin addict, and his photographer girlfriend Kate Meyer.

Their vision? To break down stigma, encourage recovery and make people feel visible again.

Kate Meyer, co-founder of I Am Not Anonymous

Tom, who was addicted for 15 years, knows first hand how difficult recovery can be. But admitting publicly that he had a problem was what made him determined to succeed.

On day two of his treatment, Tom called Kate and told her: “You can tell everyone. I am in rehab, I am a drug addict and this is my truth. I have nothing to hide anymore. I have kept it a secret for long enough.”

He also attended a local community group where he broke his anonymity around addiction for the first time. Kate says it was a defining moment in their journey.

“We learnt that speaking out could result in saving someone’s life,” she says.

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Tom Goris

I Am Not Anonymous Stories

From this moment of courage came a project that not only gained 29,000 hits from 29 countries in the first 48 hours of launch, but gave others the confidence to seek help, share their stories and not be invisible anymore.

The couple have since received an incredible response to their work, with messages from drug and alcohol users saying that the stories on their website have prompted them to seek help, and also praise from the family members of loved ones lost to addiction.

Kate adds: “Even people in recovery are coming forward, of their own accord, and asking for the opportunity to share their stories.”

As well as sharing his story, Tom offers his advice for those looking to seek help and recover from addiction.

"You are not alone," he tells us. "Ask for help and surrender. Accept yourself for who you are. If I can do it, so can you."

"The process takes time. The process takes patience. But, looking back, I'm so happy that I made the choice to accept the help and be willing to accept it everyday moving forward."

"If we can empower people in recovery to share their stories and become visible, we can shift the focus to the solution," says Kate.

A lesson to take away from this?

The couple summarise addiction perfectly: “People who suffer from heroin addiction are not bad people trying to become 'good', they are sick people trying to get well.”