The stigma surrounding addiction is hard to avoid. While you may picture someone who is addicted to drugs as having some type of moral failing or a personality issue, doing the same thing for other diseases would be unthinkable. This is why experts are pushing for the proper recognition of drug and alcohol addiction (as well as behavioral addictions) as diseases. There are many reasons to support this conclusion, but some of the most convincing is PET scan evidence showing the brain changes common in addiction.
Substance abuse is a choice—that’s what most people believe when they think about addicts—so why don’t they just stop using? Stigma is a huge problem because it prevents people from getting the help they need. To avoid the shame and embarrassment of having an addiction, many people who need treatment will never seek it.
Addicts and alcoholics frequently believe that they are not hurting anyone but themselves. This is far from the truth. While addicts and alcoholics are abusing substances to avoid feeling their feelings, family members and close friends are experiencing a world of hurt and pain. Every day they watch their loved one slip further and further away from them and deteriorate before their eyes.
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self. – Aristotle
We have a collective understanding about “the addict” as a personality type. When someone says they know an addict or pronounces themselves to be one, an image instantly comes to mind. We think of someone who has lost control. Maybe we see someone disheveled and confused, or worse, a bleakly sinister character. When we think of the word addict, other words like irresponsible and selfish and manipulative come to mind. We think of someone who has given up. But as any recovering addict knows, addicts are some of the grittiest and oftentimes some of the wisest people around. Continue reading