Mention to a friend or co-worker that you take psychotropic medication, and you’ll likely be judged for it. Talk to most anyone in the general public about your stay at a sober living community, and it’s quite possible you’ll be quietly criticized.
Our society has a hard time with areas of life it doesn’t understand, and the health of the mind is one of them. In fact, society is so outward focused and centered on instantly gratifying physical needs that the health of the mind and spirit too frequently get ignored. It’s clear that mental illness, including alcohol and drug addiction, continues to carry a strong stigma.
And stigmas only make the road to long-term recovery longer. In fact, for many men and women, the label of being an addict has kept them out of treatment altogether. In recent years, this has been especially true for women. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 2.7 million women in the United States, many of whom do not receive treatment because their social roles as mothers and nurturers. Seeking treatment would highlight the stigma of substance abuse in their families and communities. The shame that comes with admitting drug use often gets in the way of tending to their addiction, even if it becomes destructive.
Clearly, most people don’t like to be labeled. And sadly, many people perpetuate labeling by referring to others in ways that are belittling, such as “Joe is an addict”. However, just opposite is actually true. Joe is not the addiction itself. He is a human being with feelings, thoughts, aspirations, dreams, and hopes, just like everyone else. He happens to have a mental illness, and with the right treatment, it can be managed and not become an obstacle to reaching those hopes and dreams.
In fact, we might even see Joe as a Hero. A hero or heroine is defined as a person who is admired for his or her courage, outstanding achievements, and noble qualities. Given the remarkable mountain that those with addictions must climb and the daunting task of breaking free of their past, they are indeed heroes and heroines! We might even see them as the stars of their community. The stars of Hollywood and New York City aren’t those we see in the movies; they are the Heroes in Recovery working hard to transform their lives.
In fact, many communities around the nation are celebrating the heroic efforts of those with addictions, those who decide to get the help they need despite any feelings of shame. And it’s not just a celebration; it’s a movement – a movement to break the stigma of recovery.
To further this movement and to celebrate the heroes and heroines, you can find community-gathering 6K races taking place around the country. For example, the New York Heroes 6K takes place at Riverside Park on August 16, 2014. The New York event not only intends to bring the community together to break the social stigma of mental illness and addiction but also to raise funds for Xcel University.
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