How to Overcome the Stigma of Addiction
For any given American no matter what their socioeconomic group or gender, there is a 15% chance that they will develop an addiction in their lifetime. Substance abuse disorders affect 23 million people in America; fortunately, 60% of those who battle an addiction make a full recovery and return to their lives; the medical technology that makes this possible exists. There is one complication, however: addressing the stigma of addiction can be harder.
No matter how effective the treatment may be that you find or how complete the recovery, you will always need to face the disapproval of the society that you live in. There is the additional complication of poor mental health — two out of three of those who suffer from an addiction also struggle with a mental health disorder. The fact that you should have ever suffered from these conditions can come with a great deal of pressure; you may need to constantly defend yourself, and prove that you are healthy, and worthy of trust.
How deep does the stigma run?
Surprisingly, the stigma of addiction and mental illness can often start right at rehab. Many inexpensive rehabs with little expertise or accreditation employ under-qualified staff, ones with little training in addiction treatment. They may share many of the uninformed attitudes of the general public about where responsibility for an addiction lies. Often, patients at such facilities hear their own caregivers express uncharitable opinions about why they may have ended up there.
At home, there may be understanding, but there may be resentment, as well. Often, the entire family harbors such feelings because of the embarrassment that they feel admitting to others that a family member has a problem.
Employers may penalize employees in different ways. While a person with cancer would usually receive a great deal of understanding from an employer, even if they were unable to be effective at work, a person with addiction usually gets little sympathy.
The reason for such stigma is simple — there is little scientifically valid understanding of the problem available to the general public. Most people tend to see addiction as nothing more than weak, irresponsible behavior that one could change if only one had a little moral strength.
The first thing to do: learn about addiction
Certainly, you will need to do your best to understand what exactly addiction is, and help those around you understand, as well. This can go a long way in blunting the insensitivity that you experience. It’s important to understand that addiction is only a mental disorder. There is a strong genetic component involved, as well. Seen in this way, addiction is no different from depression or any other such condition. Other than to seek treatment, one has little control over the way this disorder occurs.
While you should certainly seek therapy for relapse prevention, there are other kinds of therapeutic aids that you should look for, as well. It’s important, for instance, to seek therapeutic assistance in finding a way to remain strong enough to confront the stigma attached to addiction. The better your personal mental defenses against insensitive behavior, the better you are able to feel.
Don’t hide; seek company out
When you believe that the people around you do not view your experience with addiction with sensitivity, it may occur to you to simply avoid all company. This isn’t a smart move, however. It’s important to remember that while there are many who aren’t sensitive, there is considerable sensitivity out there, as well. It’s also important to remember that people don’t actually say things to anyone’s face; you can go out there and live your life in a normal way.
The more normal your everyday life begins to look, the more normal you actually feel.
For therapeutic assistance with expert therapists who have experience in helping people overcome the stigma of addiction, look up the website of Better Addiction Care. Better, still, call 1-800-429-7690 to speak to an expert counselor. You’ll find that there’s a world of help out their waiting for you.