Don’t Allow the Stigma of Addiction to Interfere With Seeking Treatment
The stigma of addiction and common discrimination against those who suffer from it, often prevents them from entering the rehabilitation process.
Choosing to enter addiction treatment is difficult. It takes determination and humility admitting that a person needs help with their recovery really isn’t easy. Recovery from addiction, however, really is something that works best when completed in a rehab setting, with other people there to support and nurture the recovery process. It’s not as simple as one day making a decision to stop using drugs. If that were the case, addiction wouldn’t be as big as a problem as it is today and relapses wouldn’t happen as frequently as they do.
Often, the stigma of addiction prevents someone from receiving adequate treatment. Because an addict, or even the family of the addict, is apprehensive about opening up about their addiction, or admitting that there is a problem, attending rehab, especially inpatient rehab (which has the highest success rates), may not seem like a possibility. Leaving family and work obligations may seem impossible and it may be extremely difficult to explain the reason for absence. Addicts and even their family will find any and every excuse to not attend rehab as a result of this, which only makes addiction more difficult to treat successfully.
WHY the stigma of addiction?
Stigmas are imposed by a variety of sources – society, law enforcement, media, families, and friends. Addicts go to jail, but not just for possession of drugs. They also are sent to jail for breaking and entering and/or stealing, often in order to buy more drugs or alcohol in order to get high or even to avoid withdrawal. There is an overwhelming negative public perception of addicts, even those who have received successful treatment and are in recovery.
Family and friends, already hurt by addiction, may be leery to trust an addict, even once they are sober. There may be a fear of relapse, or fear of getting hurt once again. Family and friends may have kept the addiction hidden from others, for fear of embarrassment or discrimination. Often the addict has stolen from friends or family to support their need for drugs or alcohol.
Even medical insurance doesn’t always provide the same amount of coverage for addiction rehab as say, physical rehab/therapy.
Here’s the thing though…
Addiction is a disease, not a character flaw.
Plenty of GOOD people suffer from addiction. Educated and uneducated people can be addicts. Wealthy and poor people can be addicts. People with jobs and the unemployed can be addicts. An addict can be ANYONE. Being an addict, or being the parent of an addict doesn’t mean that you have failed in life. What the stigma of addiction does, however, that is different from other diseases is cause embarrassment or shame for the addict or the family of an addict. We need to start asking ourselves this very important question: If your child or parent had cancer, would you keep that hidden?
No, you probably would not. You’d ask for help and for support and you’d receive compassion and care from others. Addiction is a disease that requires treatment. It’s important to remember that addiction is not moral failure and an addict doesn’t WANT to be an addict. As a family member of an addict, it’s important that you show care and compassion during their recovery.
Perhaps the best way to shut down the stigma of addiction is to support those in recovery, encouraging them and acknowledging their struggles. Condemnation isn’t going to cure addiction but treatment can, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.