North Dakota first lady Kathryn Burgum continues to tell her story, spreading word across North Dakota that addiction should not be seen as taboo and that recovery — and the normalcy and independence that can follow — is achievable.

The story of Burgum, wife of Gov. Doug Burgum, is well documented, thanks to an openness that only comes from someone willing to help others.

In a Forum News Service report from 2018, she described her past self as a “high-functioning" alcoholic, who was able to still do well on the job and even earn promotions.

However, she “was going to work hungover almost every day and trying to conceal that," she said.

As reported by FNS: “Eventually, her relationships suffered and she came to wonder how much better her life might be if she quit drinking. She went to the Mayo Clinic for inpatient treatment and had a period of sobriety, but relapsed afterward because she didn't surround herself with people in recovery. That relapse lasted eight years before she made a serious decision to get sober.”

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And then, she said “the miracle really happened for me.”

She has spoken often about her road to recovery, and has made it her platform as North Dakota’s first lady.

Earlier this month, she spoke at an event in Grand Forks with businessman Jonathan Holth, who also is telling his story about alcohol addiction and his path to becoming sober. He’s now in his 13th year of recovery.

Grand Forks business owner Jonathan Holth and North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum address the Greater Grand Forks Women's Leadership Cooperative about substance use and recovery on Oct. 14, 2021. // Contributed photo
Grand Forks business owner Jonathan Holth and North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum address the Greater Grand Forks Women's Leadership Cooperative about substance use and recovery on Oct. 14, 2021. // Contributed photo

"Addiction does not discriminate," Kathryn Burgum said at the Grand Forks event. "It is one of the most inclusive diseases. It doesn't pay attention to your background or your age or your tax bracket. When we break down the barriers of stigma, we come to find that addiction does not have a face. It can look like you or me. And sometimes the signs and symptoms can be silent because of the overwhelming shame and stigma that people face."

The Grand Forks event was a prelude to her fifth-annual Recovery Reinvented event Oct. 25 in Bismarck. It was a daylong program focused on removing the negative stigma of addiction, aided by recovery experts from across the nation. More than 650 people attended in-person, and another 3,000 joined via the internet.

It is not easy to publicly discuss one’s personal addictions or evils. It takes a special person to reach out, share stories and urge others to take the same leap they have taken in an effort to retake control of their own lives.

It takes a special person to care that much about others.

Kathyrn Burgum, Jonathan Holth and others who make that brave stand deserve credit, since somewhere, somebody is going to hear their story and know that they’re not alone in their struggle.

And then, possibly, they will start their own path to recovery.

Get help

If you or a loved one struggle with substance use and seek assistance, visit helpishere.nd.gov/addictive-resources. If you are in crisis, call 211 for a free, confidential 24-hour crisis hotline.

This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Grand Forks Herald.