Stigma of Addiction
I am not proud to admit I was an addict.
It’s not something I lead with when I meet a new person.
“Hi, I’m Hannah, and I used to do meth when I was in high school. How about you?”
It isn’t information I offer to people I date in the beginning.
At the beginning of a new friendship I tend not to start rambling about my wild days.
It’s not even something I like to mention in rehab.
Some of my friends don’t even know my history.
And I’m ok with that. I am not proud of the fact that I did meth.
It is a part of my life though.
If I could go back, I wouldn’t do it again.
Because I know this perspective.
Of course, I would take the different perspective if I could go back in time.
I learned a lot from the experience.
I learned the streets.
I learned how deescalate a situation with people who are in a state of psychosis.
I learned how to read people.
I fine-tuned a sense of awareness that would later serve me again and again through my adult life.
I would not have the same perspective that I have now if I had not survived addiction.
The reason why I mention all of this is because there is a stigma with addiction.
You see people presumably drugged out on the streets.
You think, “Wow that person is such a bum, why don’t they go out and get a job?”
If you are an addict, recovering addict or know someone who has been an addict,
you learn addiction isn’t that simple.
According to the NIH, stigma is a real issue when dealing with addiction.
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The stigma of addiction
I was an A-student in multiple activities when I was younger.
Then, I got involved with the wrong crowd.
I became addicted to drugs.
I would have never predicted that could happen to me.
I always looked down on people who did drugs or drank.
I thought people were weak.
I thought people who did drugs were from bad families – until I did them myself.
Then I realized, if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.
Or at the very least, most people were at risk for falling prey to addiction.
There still remains a stigma for people who suffer from addiction and end up in rehab.
Rehab is the place where you heal.
You should go there if you are suffering from addiction.
There, you will find a whole support system to help you navigate the feelings associated with addiction.
These are some of the common misconceptions about people who suffer from addiction.
Rehab can help us work through the stigmas we face when in recovery.
And we need help.
According to the NIH stigma in substance is higher than other diseases like AIDS.
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People that get addicted are weak
This would be like saying people are weak in general. Everyone has weaknesses, everyone has vices. External events out of our control can lead us to situations, lead us to meeting people, that can lead to addiction. People don’t choose to be addicted. Addiction chooses us.
There is an assumption in our society that if you are not regularly contributing to what we know as capitalism you are lazy. One phrase I hear often is that people want a free hand out. From my experience working with people on the streets, I can tell you that most people do not want a free hand out. From my experience with drug addiction, I can tell you more than anything I needed a purpose. Most people want purpose. Most people need a purpose.
A lot of people on the streets are fighting addiction. Underneath that person’s addiction are underlying problems that need to be medially addressed in most cases. In a world full of distractions and experiences it is much more likely that people fall into an addiction trap. Most people don’t consciously make the choice to be addicted to drugs.
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Someone strung out on drugs must surely be a bad person, right? They are letting the substance control them. They do evil things like stealing from people, skipping school, work, and all they do is get high. What do you picture when you picture a drug addict? Surely your doctor isn’t the first person that pops in your mind. The guy you see walking around in a suit isn’t the first person you imagine when you think of addiction.
It’s the person dressed in rags laying on the street, or the thug who you see roaming around. That’s the thing about addiction – you might have a preconceived notion of what it looks like. With almost everything in life, the reality is much different. Addiction can happen to anyone, no matter how much money you have, no matter how much you attend church, no matter what you have done with your life. There is nothing other than chance that can make you more or less susceptible to addiction. You cannot predict who or what you will be exposed to in life.
We Often are Our Own Worst Enemies
The worst stigma for addiction is the one that those who are struggling with addiction actually hold against themselves. It’s easy to judge yourself for being weak, a slacker, or a bad person when you are under the hold of an addiction. This attitude is in part what holds us in our addiction. We forget that we can do better. Then, society just seems to reinforce it. We wonder why we cannot be normal like other people. Addiction clouds the judgement of ourselves and others. That doesn’t mean it has to be this way forever.
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Seeing a Different Story
Without having the full story, what you see is only an illusion.
It’s hard to know a person’s whole story.
The next time you think about judging yourself for being less of a person for being an addict, think about how many things that led to the situation being what it is.
In rehab you can hear stories that will help you understand the background.
Maybe that person lost their entire family due to unprecedented circumstances.
After that perhaps they had trouble coping and started to hang out with the wrong group of people.
They may have been using drugs to cope, but then became reliant on them to get by on a daily basis.
It’s easy to slip when you are already halfway down.
When you think of addiction, think of all of the events that are out of our control.
Addiction is just another one of those things.
Addiction can happen to anyone.
Rehab is set up to help fight against these stigmas and heal you from addiction.