Understanding the Negative Stigma of Addiction & How to Overcome It
What if you were drowning and everyone criticized your inability to swim?
This may sound like a terrible nightmare. But for those struggling with addiction, this is their grim reality.
There is a negative stigma surrounding addicts and addiction that is difficult to overcome. And if you’re not careful, it can ruin your life even as you try to recover.
Wondering how to understand and deal with addiction stigma? Keep reading to discover our complete guide.
What Is the Negative Stigma?
The idea of stigmas, in general, is easy to understand. A stigma is just any collection of negative feelings that much of society holds towards a certain group or idea.
Addiction stigma, then, is exactly what it sounds like. This is a shorthand reference for the negative beliefs that millions of people have towards those who struggle or have previously struggled with addiction and addictive personalities.
In order to fully understand addiction stigma, we must dig a little deeper. And that means trying to unpack exactly what the causes of this stigma are.
What Causes Addiction Stigma?
The main cause of addiction stigma is “guilt by association.” For instance, everyone can agree that addiction itself is a bad thing: it destroys lives, wrecks relationships, and tears homes apart.
Most people have trouble separating the addict from their addiction. They end up (often subconsciously) associating a person struggling with addiction with all the negative qualities of addiction itself.
The other primary cause of addiction stigma is that many people do not understand how addiction works. They think it is simply a matter of having enough willpower to avoid drugs or alcohol and end up judging addicts as being weak-willed.
Sadly, addiction stigma can have a number of negative effects on your life.
What Are the Effects of Addiction Stigma?
The biggest effect of addiction stigma is a sense of isolation. It can often feel like you are struggling with addiction all on your own.
Negative stigma of addiction may make you fear you will lose the support of friends and family if they find out the truth. And the stigma is strong enough that certain employers may terminate your position if you tell them about it.
This issue is compounded by the fact that some friends might not like the “new you”–the one who is living free of drugs and alcohol. This, too, can make you feel isolated and even peer-pressured.
Fortunately, there is hope. We’ve put together a few ways that you can help fight back against addiction stigma, and the first way involves dealing with the isolation.
Like we said, addiction stigma can make you feel isolated and alone. That’s why the first step towards dealing with it is to find some friends and family you can really rely on.
Such friends can help you vent your frustrations and fears. They can also help to directly discourage you from getting back on the road to addiction.
Most of all, your friends and family are there to be a system of accountability for you on your road to recovery. Sometimes, knowing that you’re not just doing this for yourself but for all the ones you love can give you the strength to go on.
Honesty Is Everything
Getting a support system in place is just the first step. The next step is simple: brutal honesty.
Part of addiction is struggling with the voice in your head that says things like “just one drink wouldn’t be so bad.” You need to be brutally honest with yourself that addiction threatens your health, your relationships, and even your life.
You may also need to be brutally honest about your relationships. You’ll soon discover friends that refuse to stand by you as you try to recover. Instead of wasting energy on winning them back, you need to realize they were clearly not good friends, to begin with and move on.
Part of dealing with addiction and addiction stigma is taking responsibility for the choices you have made. And that’s why one powerful step you can take is to choose to become a leader within your community.
Instead of trying to hide your struggle, consider becoming a mentor to others who may be struggling. You can speak at local colleges and community events about both your struggle and what it took to begin recovering.
Not only does this help eliminate addiction stigma by making you an advocate for change, but it also helps out any potential addicts who receive your message. Even if they have confided in no one else, you can help to reassure them that they are not alone in their daily struggle.
Make It Official
Earlier, we talked about the importance of having friends and family members you can trust with your addiction. However, the final piece of advice is equally important: you need to join an official support group.
Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have been very successful over the years at helping members find sobriety and fulfillment. And there are many good reasons for this.
First is the anonymous nature of the groups. Even if you have few or little friends and family to confide in, these groups provide you with sympathetic colleagues who have shared your struggle and are now willing to listen to your story.
Second, these groups provide a formalized accountability process. Things like chips to celebrate achievements in sobriety serve as tangible reminders of the accomplishments you’ve made.
Third, these groups can be found all over the country. This means that if you should travel for work or move for a new job, you will be able to easily find a support network nearby if you need one.
The Bottom Line
Now you know what the negative stigma surrounding addiction is and how you can deal with it. But do you know who to turn to if you need additional help?
At the Recovery Resource Center, we are devoted to helping you find sobriety, peace, and happiness. If you need additional information or resources, reach out and contact us today!