We’ve seen the glances. We’ve heard the whispers. We’ve been having a perfectly good day, until we hear the word “addict” uttered under a hushed breath. The stigma against addiction is real, and if you’ve gone through addiction, you’ve experienced it. It’s unfortunately an extremely common stigma, attributed to misunderstandings of what addiction is, portrayals in media, and many other factors. However, very little of it is based in fact. This doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, though. It’s not uncommon to experience discrimination, embarrassment, and social isolation all because of addiction. Don’t fall victim to stigma; fight back, prove them wrong, and simultaneously change people’s perception of what addiction really is.
The first step of dealing with stigma is to accept it. It’s also the hardest step. If you live in a small community or had a large group of sober friends, it can be difficult to escape the stigma, even if you’re sober. Before you can change anyone’s mind, you need to accept how they feel. It’s not natural, and it’s not nice, but what they’re feeling is stemming not from condemnation or malice, but a misunderstanding at the most fundamental level of what addiction really is.
Since most of the stigma of addiction comes from a misunderstanding of what addiction really is, it’s your choice whether or not you want to change their minds. Sometimes, this can be more work than it’s worth, as it can be tough to shatter years and years of pre-held beliefs. However, if your friends and family are important to you yet hold on to some misunderstandings about addiction, it’ll behoove you to help clear the air. A support system that understands addiction is an effective support system. Use this as an opportunity not only to educate, but to become closer to the people you love. Your support system will become more caring, knowledgeable, and helpful in the process.
Learn From Others
You’re not the first to experience addiction, nor will you be the last. For this reason, it can be helpful to talk to others who have dealt with the exact same stigma you have. They might have helpful tips and ideas for you to deal with or reverse the stigma and discrimination you face. Another benefit is that you’ll be in a judgment free zone, free of any negative stigma. 12 step and non 12 step programs are great for more than just helping you through recovery. They make for a great safe space to free yourself from the unfair stigma addiction brings.