You’re working hard to overcome your addiction, and you need the support of family and friends. There’s a stigma surrounding substance abuse, and people in your life may not understand addiction. Knowing the causes of alienation, how to educate family and friends, and how to break away from the stigma will help you throughout your recovery.
Why the Stigma Surrounding Substance Abuse?
People are more likely to view substance abuse negatively than mental health conditions. The public has been educated about mental health, and awareness campaigns have raised understanding and empathy. Substance abuse, however, is often misunderstood.
Although drug addiction is a medical condition, people view those battling addiction as weak, irresponsible, or having a defect in character. Drug addiction is often associated with illegal drugs, and people equate addicts with criminals, even though addiction may start with prescription painkillers. This criminal image is changing as America finds itself in the grips of an opioid epidemic.
Shame and guilt are associated with drug addiction not only by those who suffer from it, but from friends and family as well. This can lead to people sweeping the subject under the carpet. Just as mental illness was once a taboo topic, substance addiction is still far less talked about and often remains a secret.
Alienation from Family and Friends
Often family members and friends just don’t understand substance addiction. They may be embarrassed, blame themselves, or feel helpless. It’s often easier for them to turn away rather than embrace a loved one going through treatment for addiction. They may be feeling hurt by how they were treated or taken advantage of by someone who suffers from substance use disorder.
Educate Family and Friends on Substance Use Disorder
Education leads to understanding. With the help of a counselor or other members of your treatment team, talk to your loved ones about the realities of addiction. Some talking points may include:
- The physical symptoms of drug addiction, including nausea, vomiting, fever, sweats and chills, tremors, weight gain or loss, and sleep disturbances.
- How substance addiction often co-exists with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
- How addiction changes the brain short- and long-term, leading to poor choices or inexplicable behaviors.
- How addiction treatment plans can help.
Coping With and Breaking Away from the Stigma
You are not your addiction! It doesn’t define you. While substance abuse may be a lifelong challenge, once you have the support, resources and tools to recover, you can lead a productive and fulfilling life. Immerse yourself in inspirational stories of those who’ve overcome substance addiction and tune out the negative chatter that comes from the news, social media, and naysayers.
If you have dedicated friends and family willing to stay with you through thick and thin, you can leave behind the others who can’t understand or won’t stop judging. It’s hurtful to be rebuffed or shamed by loved ones, and you don’t need to put up with it. If you’ve tried to make amends in cases where you’ve hurt loved ones and made attempts to educate them on addiction, that’s all you can do. Choose to keep supportive people in your life and let go of the negative ones.
As substance addiction makes its way out of the shadows and into the light, more people will become educated, leading to its de-stigmatization. Hope is here for those who are overcoming addiction!
At The GateHouse, we’d love to help support you in your journey to overcome addiction and deal with its stigma. Reach out to us today!