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Addiction can happen to anyone, which is why it is so important to remember that no one deserves the stigma that is still prevalent today. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) continues to study ways that we can address the stigma of addiction, citing gaps in care, fear of seeking care, and other societal stigmas that limit access to effective treatment.
If you are currently in recovery, celebrating your success in getting help and treatment is a great place to start. If you are currently struggling with addiction — or love someone who does — continue reading for more tips on how to alleviate the stigma of addiction in your life and in your community.
One of the first steps in any person’s healing is to realize they have a problem and ask for help. There is treatment available to you, and you are worth healing from addiction and seeking help.
NIDA confirms that many people struggling with addiction are afraid to seek medical help or treatment due to stigma, fear, and the risk of embarrassment or shame. Addiction is a disease, and it is certainly okay to get treated for a disease. Getting treatment can start at a hospital, a rehabilitation facility, or another certified medical facility that can provide help. Sometimes treatment can be extremely challenging, so it is important to always have professional support to help you.
Seeking therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or individual therapy, can help you focus on the language surrounding addiction and mental health that often drives stigma. CBT is a growing and profound choice of therapy that helps a person consciously recognize their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in reaction to stressors. As you talk through them with a therapist, you learn how to positively adjust these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Other options for therapy include individual therapy, family and couples therapy, EMDR (eye movement rapid desensitization), and more. Sometimes creative therapies like art or music therapy or therapy that involves caring for animals, such as equine therapy, are helpful as well. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something you can continue after treatment.
Though it is a great thing to be an empathetic person, you do not need to own or internalize anyone else’s feelings. Judgments and stigma are often based on fear, misrepresentation, misplaced anger, denial, confusion, jealousy, or self-esteem issues. Many people fear what they do not understand, and that is normal.
If you are uncomfortable with someone’s judgments, overreaching “jokes,” or disrespectful behavior, you do not have to own it. Simply walk away, tell the person you do not like it when they speak like that or give them resources that can help them learn how to better support someone with an addiction.
If someone’s judgment or insecurity is causing them to treat you negatively, you can tell them to stop. It is well within your rights to set boundaries and tell a person that they can no longer treat you in a negative way, especially when stigma-fueled fears are involved. If they cannot honor this boundary, you can honor your own boundary of steering clear of them. Tell them that you can no longer see them if they are going to treat you negatively or with stigma and rejection. You have the right to remove yourself from situations that make you uncomfortable.
Another boundary that you can set is to have a mediator available and present if you must interact with a person who makes you uncomfortable. This mediator could be a friend, a support person from a 12-Step group, a sponsor, or a family member. In extreme cases, there are state and county programs that allow for a mediator (life coach, therapist, caseworker, social worker, guardian ad litem, etc.) to be present to support you. In more extreme cases, you may even need a lawyer present. These may sound like big steps, but sometimes hard boundaries must be set.
Shame in addiction is common, but you do not need to own that either. Some common ways to change your language about addiction include terms you likely hear all the time. For example, you can change “addict” to “person in recovery” or “person struggling with addiction.” These small changes in language can make a big impact on how these terms are perceived and help lessen the stigma of addiction for those around you.
The stigma of addiction is negative, unfair, and often founded in perceived fear, pain, or trauma. Stigma can be harmful in many ways, including limiting opportunities for treatment, creating a negative atmosphere for those who are suffering from addiction, and deterring others who are suffering from seeking treatment. Here at RECO Intensive, we offer care and help for those who are brave enough to seek treatment despite the stigma. Our professional staff and experienced alumni know that you are worth saving, that addiction is a disease, and that you deserve to be treated so you can live a better future. At RECO Intensive, we offer treatment for nearly any addiction, spanning from alcohol and drugs to sex, gambling, and even shopping addictions. We offer multiple types of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and even equine therapy, to help you recover and stay strong in your RECOvery after treatment. We want to help you. Call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.
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