Addiction to alcohol and drugs is one of the deadliest diseases. However, addiction is not always treated or seen for what it is because of the stigma of addiction. There is a looming negative connotation regarding addiction to any drug and alcohol. Other life-threatening diseases are handled with vigilant care and compassion for those under the weight of addiction. The dark cloud that hovers over the addiction afflicted can cause one to forego treatment. Or even lead to relapse.
What Is the Stigma Surrounding Drug and Alcohol Addiction?
The stigma of addiction comes from negative feelings and beliefs of various people in power, healthcare professionals, and other individuals. This vast group of people simply struggle to see addiction as a disease. So to them, it’s not like cancer, diabetes, or other illnesses addressed with compassion. The assumption is that people with substance use disorders (SUDs) have just made poor life decisions and are to blame for the disease.
Why Does the Stigma of Addiction Exist?
The stigma of alcohol and drug addiction exists because not enough people are educated about the reality of the illness. No child strives to grow up, and battle heart disease, and no one strives to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Like many other diseases, genetics can also play a role in drug and alcohol addiction. As explained in “Genes and (Common) Pathways Underlying Drug Addiction,” genetics can contribute 40%–60% of the vulnerability to drug addiction. This is a reality that some choose not to accept, while others accept it but blind themselves to its depth.
To put it simply, discussing addiction can make many people uncomfortable. Any association with it can feel unnerving to those who cannot relate and even sometimes to those who can. This, unfortunately, is one of the reasons why the stigma exists.
Accepting the Unavoidable Existence of the Stigma of Addiction
There have been platforms and individuals who have come around to seeing the misunderstandings and mishandlings of addiction. Now more healthcare professionals are correlating mental illness to drug and alcohol addiction. The resources for those seeking sobriety and recovery have grown and continue to uncover its realities.
In recovery, as you must live in a world where alcohol and drugs still exist, you must live in one where the stigma attached to addiction also exists. Avoiding what’s outside of the safety net of the recovery community is just not always possible. So you must learn to live with the fact that it’s there but avoid coming into contact with it directly or allowing it to penetrate your sober bubble.
Prevention of Internalized Stigma of Addiction
Internalizing the stigma is something that truly happens often. Hopkinsmedicine.org even points out the urgency and need to combat the stigma surrounding addiction in their research. When negative opinions surrounding addiction are so prevalent, it is easy to absorb those assumptions as fact.
This is not something you willingly do, but when this happens, it can lead to relapse, depression, or worse. You must find ways to avoid the presence of the stigma, the same ways that you avoid triggers: people, places, and things that are not conducive to your recovery. It is beneficial to use your tools such as:
- Group support meetings
- Having a strong circle of support
- Seeking help from your higher power if you have one
- Avoiding literature or entertainment that may support the stigma of addiction
These can all work toward living in a world where the stigma exists but moving around it so that you do not have to live with it.
Overcoming Stigma of Addiction: What Is Meant to Break You
To overcome the stigma, you must rise above it, and the Laguna Shores Recovery Center professionals can help. Drugs and alcohol are now unworthy of your energy, and you’ll want to look at the opinion and ridicule of others the same. Stigmas and stereotypes surrounding your addiction can cause you to pick up again. A part of overcoming it is accepting that it is not going anywhere.
If you think about it, you live in a world where multiple religions are practiced. Maybe you practice one, or you don’t practice any. Regardless of your religious preference, the others don’t affect your life; they just exist.
Thinking of it in this way helps make those thoughts and opinions just what they are. They are thoughts conjured up in the minds of others who, most times, cannot relate. The phrases and jokes told by trolls or comedians are not facts but ways to gain an audience and profit from your pain.
Laguna Shores Recovery Center understands that many who support the stigma do not realize the damage that comes with it for those who face addiction. This is why one of the greatest parts of overcoming it is educating the uneducated—especially those who attempt to offer negative insight to others who are unaware of the truth. Stand strong in your truth, and do not allow ignorance to harm your peace in life or your recovery.
Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is tumultuous enough without the negative thoughts or opinions of others. Adding on the stigma of addiction can weigh down the spirit and motivation of those trying to get and stay sober. That is a weight that you do not have to carry regardless of its exitance. Although the stigma is not going anywhere, your sobriety does not have to either. Laguna Shores Recovery Center can offer ways for you to abandon the weight of accepting titles and opinions that do not belong to you. If you are in need of resources that can help you overcome the stigma of addiction, please call us at (866) 774-1532.