Overcoming stigma towards a successful recovery
The image most people have of a drug addict is 90% of the time way off the mark. A drug addict in most people’s eyes is either an irresponsible celebrity or basically a criminal. If an addict is not a high profile celebrity, he or she will be portrayed as a social outcast, a poor and uncivilized criminal at best. This bias is what is known as addiction stigma, and can be a major obstacle in one’s journey towards successful recovery. What the majority of people fail to perceive is that people suffering from addiction are functioning members of the community, parents, brothers, sisters, colleagues, friends, and neighbors. So what exactly is addiction stigma, and where does it come from?
There is no single way to define stigma, but it is that common perception about addicted people being criminals or people who have flawed character and are incapable of making sound choices, or simply lacking will power. Social stigma only works to deepen the suffering of an addict, and will often keep them from seeking treatment in the first place. It is wise to remember that a person in recovery faces the double battle of fighting the addiction disease, and overcoming the stigma associated with the condition. There is also that false belief that a person suffering from addiction cannot overcome the condition and move on. Addiction is usually viewed as a condition worse than any other mental disease. Here are a few tips on how one can overcome stigma in everyday life:
- The starting point is to accept that you have a disease that though chronic it can be cured. This will help you build personal strength that is essential in your journey towards recovery. Accept that the condition you suffer is neither entirely your fault nor a moral failing. You may have made poor decisions in your past, but that does not make you a social outcast. Know that recovery is possible, and acceptance is the first step.
- It will also be important to attend a recovery group. You are not alone in this battle and seeking support from other group members can help you rise above the stigma.
- Learn more about your condition. By educating yourself about addiction you’ll understand that addiction is a brain disease that can be treated. Armed with enough knowledge you will be empowered enough to rise above societal misconceptions about addiction.
- Take a proactive role and speak out against stigmatization of people suffering from addiction. When you speak out, you educate people about the condition, and possibly change their perception of people suffering from addiction. Let the world see that the stereotypic view of addicts is wrong. Speaking out will help you gain confidence in your journey towards recovery.
Effects of stigma on the victims usually include shame, embarrassment, reluctance to find help, and isolation among many others. When an employer refuses to hire a person with a history of addiction, or a landlord fails to rent accommodation to an addict, the victim will in most cases withdraw from the society and prefer to live in seclusion. The society needs to realize that employment and accommodation are key factors in helping people recover from addiction.
Stigma against victims of substance abuse permeates into the legal system too. It is strange that addiction is the last illness that still carries a criminal label in the justice system. The courts still sentence both dealers and users alike. It is criminal to suffer from substance abuse. This is indeed a legitimized form of stigma.
Stigma is nothing but a negative attitude the society imposes on individuals it deems different due to fear, lack of enough knowledge, or simply due to prejudice. Ignorance about addiction and its true nature has led the society to label people suffering from addictions as junkies rather than normal people with a health problem. It is about time the world recognized addiction as a sickness no less different from other mental conditions.