Stigma is driven by the pejorative words, the labels, that are used to describe us.
Until we are seen as people, until we are provided the same respect and dignity as everyone else, we will continue to die.
Addiction is far more complex than people make it look like – do you call a person who is suffering from a chronic illness a bad person? No. Every day, we come across people who are finding it hard to ask for help leading them to more consequences in life, to a point where they see no hope in life anymore. The words ‘addict’, ‘clean and sober’, and ‘recovery’ does not reduce the stigma, unless society start seeing the addict as a person, with a mind, body, and soul.
Why the comparison with chronic illness you say? Addiction is not a choice; a person does not wake up in the morning and decides to be an addict. Addiction is a chronic disease and should be viewed in the same way as we view any other chronic disease.
Addiction is a disease that crushes the soul and is often accompanied by deceitful and irresponsible behavior, taking a toll on relationships. Society is very easy to judge and blame the addict for such radical behavior instead of focusing on the disease that is causing the behavior. Being shunned and disowned by family, friends and society only contributed to greater shame, guilt, and self-blame. Addicts continue to be blamed for their disease, even though, long ago, medicine reached a consensus that addiction is a complex brain disorder with behavior components, having a genetic predisposition, as well as a ranged of environmental factors, especially those that occur in early childhood.
Let’s change the stigma around addiction and the addict, and start helping the person rather than degrading them more. Yes, we all do mistake but some of us do seek help and we try to make amends for our wrongs. We do our best to help people develop a deeper understanding of themselves, to accept and love themselves. But we need society’s help in this as well! Our work is not enough if society keeps marginalizing them. “It’s not the drugs that make a drug addict, but the need to escape reality” so let’s not make reality hard for them but instead become more accepting.