Mon. Jul 4th, 2022

The Stigma of Addiction

Addicts are a part of our society; they are in our classrooms, work places, churches and homes. Addiction expands beyond the realm of drugs and can include sex, gambling, self harm and pornography. It’s rampant and yet how we address both the subject and individual is often reaffirming negative stigmas. This can unintentionally place those in need of support, guidance and intervention into a corner sparking defensiveness and seclusion from others. As parents, friends, family members and co-workers how we address and perceive addiction has to soften. We must remove the stigma of addiction in order to provide a level of education and support.

We live in a society where ballpark 75% of us know someone in our inner circle or close outer circle who struggles with addiction. That’s a staggering percentage. Here’s the deal: addiction cannot be a term we wince at. It can not be viewed as a dirty little secret we reluctantly chat about. If our kids, spouses and friends are under the pretense that it’s dirty, uncomfortable and shameful this is how they will view themselves. There will be a reluctance to seek support and care. When treatment is delayed it only compounds the problem.

So how do we change the perception of addiction? It starts at home. Dialogue with your family members. If someone in your family or close to the family has an addiction it’s trying to explain what that looks like. An addict is not a bad person, they’re just making bad decisions. At some point the line is crossed from using to dependence to addiction. No one rolls out of bed, stretches and says, ” I think I’ll be an addict today.” It is sometimes a gradual, other times rapid, decline that becomes all consuming.

addiction's stigma

The stigma of addiction….

Addiction is kicking our butts. It is critical that we, as a society, become more comfortable in discussing a heart ache that effects the majority no longer the minority. If we come across as uncomfortable or disgusted an immediate barrier is raised. It’s time to shake off the discomfort and communicate.

What does this look like: 

  • Family history: If there is addiction on either the biological mom or dad’s side it is part of their genetic make up. Meaning, there is a higher likelihood for addiction. When we don’t communicate about our family history it’s a disservice to that individual. That’s setting them up for disaster before they start on their journey. Not cool.
  • Genetics: We all have choices. We can choose to drink, get high, pop pills, etc. It’s a choice. But toss in genetics and it becomes a game of Russian Roulette. When it comes to family history genes play a factor.
  • Addictive personality: If an addictive personality is a factor, it sets them up for a greater likelihood for developing an addiction.

Red Flags: 

  • Communication is super important: Empower your peeps that they don’t need to get into drinking, pill popping, smoking, etc. to get through high school. There’s insane pressure and they don’t have to succumb to it. Remind them you love them no matter what. This is a key factor,encourage them to talk with you if they’re in a bad place or a friend is. If the open door feel isn’t there the reluctance to talk with you (whether this is your kid, spouse, cousin, etc.) it will create a barrier. Poor decisions can lapse into something more. When detection isn’t until later down the road it just makes every part of the process more difficult.
  • Go with your gut: If your internal red flags are waving high and that gut of yours is sensing something is off, go with it. I believe we were given our intuition and feelings that something just isn’t right for a reason.

Say no to the negative stigma….

  • Help: If a family member is demonstrating concerning behaviors it’s critical to reaffirm your support and encouragement. But it’s lining that up with outside help. That may be outside counseling or a treatment program. Programs range from in patient, during the day to after school/work hours.

It’s not easy to admit that someone you know, love and care for is in a bad place. Sometimes you just want to close your eyes and wish it is merely a bad dream. But the longer treatment, care and identifying the problem is delayed it only adds to what needs to be worked on. Addiction stinks. Nothing going comes from delaying treatment. Nothing.

I often find myself in warp speed mode with young people facing addiction. My view is that high school is such a pertinent time to address and deal with issues. We’re on a very limited time line. But when it comes to help,  no one needs to know what’s going on. Often parents and students perceive school or treatment involvement as impeding future plans. The truth is, it’s the opposite. In middle school/high school there’s a time buffer. It’s an ideal time for treatment that no one outside of their circle needs to know about. But this is where the stigma of addiction kicks in. What will people think? It’ll get better with time...So many thoughts that compound the problem and heartache.

If you are concerned for someone, extend your hand now and pursue help. Know that addiction may touch many lives, it doesn’t have to destroy them. Chat with your peeps. Kick the negative stigma of addiction to the curb. Let’s be more open to listen, talk and lay the groundwork for a topic that impacts all of us in some way, shape or form.



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