The Role of Stigma in Addiction Recovery
Despite scientific evidence proving that addiction is a condition of the brain, many people still view it as a weakness or a moral failing. The combined misunderstanding of how addiction affects the brain and the perception that a person with an addiction is morally defective is damaging for those who have addictions and their loved ones. At worst, it can negatively influence a decision to enter addiction recovery and begin to make changes that could save someone’s life.
The stigma attached with addiction along with guilt and shame makes people pull away from interacting with others. This happens individually as well as in families. Many people with drug and alcohol addictions will seek isolation to avoid embarrassment. If you say anything about addiction you are breaking the family code, so people stay in addiction even though loved ones are desperately suffering. By starting to reach out within your family or support system, individuals can begin to break down the barriers of isolation, and furthermore, family members and friends can become a network of support.
Stigma and misunderstanding around addiction hurt people with addiction and their loved ones. It causes unnecessary stress and sadness and leads to misinterpretation and poor communication. When friends and family members avoid and actively combat stigma, they’re better able to support one another and their loved ones who suffer. It is important to realize that negative attitudes and social stigma can cause long-term damage to the victims mental and emotional health.
Set Goals and Adopt Healthy Coping Skills:
As a person with addiction does the deep, challenging work that recovery requires, the transformation will be visible to anyone who has known the individual at their darkest moments. Working diligently towards recovery and life goals shows the world this challenge is surmountable.
Addiction does not mean people are morally weak, a failure, a criminal or any less of a person. Setting goals to develop healthy habits consistently over time helps to change previous damaging behavioural patterns permanently.
Ongoing efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination around addiction are necessary to send a message that addiction is not a character flaw and it is ok to reach out for help.