Just because you have a substance use disorder does not mean that it has to define you as a person. But dealing with the negative attitudes and beliefs about addiction can be difficult. Stigmas surrounding addiction suggest that those who struggle with a substance use disorder are weak, immoral, dirty, lazy, and more. These false beliefs can make people feel ashamed and helpless, perhaps even preventing them from seeking treatment.
You do not have to live with the stigma of addiction and let it cause you shame or make you feel isolated. While overcoming the stigma of addiction can be a challenging and ongoing process, it is an important step towards sustaining a lasting recovery.
Removing the stigma starts with educating yourself about your condition, challenging any negative beliefs that are affecting you, seeking support from friends and family, and building a strong sense of self-esteem. We offer more detailed guidelines below:
- Education. Educating yourself and others about addiction, its causes, and its impact can help dismiss some of the most common myths and stereotypes. This can help everyone understand that addiction is a disease, not a sign of failure or a lack of willpower.
- Advocate. Speak out about your own experiences with addiction, or advocate for those who are struggling with addiction. This can help reduce the shame and isolation that often accompanies addiction and can show others that addiction can affect anyone. One way to be an advocate is to speak to others at support group meetings to share your own journey.
- Language. Use non-judgmental language when describing addiction. For example, say that a person has a substance use disorder instead of calling the person an addict or a junkie. This simple step can help promote understanding and compassion instead of negativity or unnecessary judgment. The National Institutes of Health offers a comprehensive guide to the language of addiction.
- Compassion. Show compassion towards people who are struggling with addiction to help reduce the stigma and promote a culture of support and understanding. When you show compassion, it helps others question their own attitudes and release their judgments about people with addiction.
- Treatment and Recovery. Finding the right treatment at a caring recovery center is essential for a lasting recovery. Showing that recovery is possible can help break down the stigma surrounding addiction. Seeing others living healthy and fulfilling lives after receiving treatment for addiction can prove there is hope.
How Stigma Affects Recovery
Remember that addiction is a complex disease that affects millions of people, and that seeking help and support is a sign of strength, not weakness. The stigma of addiction can have a significant impact on those in recovery, which can make the journey even more of a challenge. Stigma can:
- Cause feelings of shame and guilt. Shame and guilt tear down self-esteem, making it difficult for someone in recovery to focus on the positive steps they are taking to improve their life.
- Increase the risk of relapse. A low self-esteem leads to discouragement and a sense of helplessness, making the risk of relapse even greater.
- Isolate socially. Feeling shame or guilt can also cause people to isolate themselves from friends and family. They may want to hide their substance use disorder, making it harder to maintain close relationships that can help support their sobriety.
- Employment discrimination. Due to a lack of understanding about substance use disorders, employers may show discrimination toward people in recovery who are seeking employment. Stigma can also make it difficult to return to the workplace after treatment since you may be facing judgment from an employer or co-workers who don’t understand.
We Can Help
At Twin Lakes Recovery Center in Monroe, Georgia, we are here to help get you on the path to long-term recovery. We offer a variety of treatments and programs for people of all ages, including inpatient residential treatment, medically supervised drug or alcohol detox services, and a family recovery program. To learn more about what we offer, please contact us today to discuss your options.