Getting Over the Stigma of Recovery to Get the Help You Need

Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction

It’s hard to treat addiction. It’s also hard to find addiction treatment. There’s no denying that – over 80 percent of people who are potentially eligible for a heroin addiction don’t get the help they need for their addiction. Many of them try to find help, but find that they aren’t eligible, financially or otherwise. If they lack the cash, they may seek out not-for-profit treatment centers or government-run centers, which reject applicants with a history of mental health issues or a history of crime. Then, there are those who do make it through treatment – over half of who eventually relapse within the first year after rehab and go right back to the start.

Thankfully this may change soon, but there are still other issues in the way. While many are genuinely in denial and don’t think they need help for their addiction, there are many Americans who can’t afford to get the help they do need. And when they do finally get the opportunity for treatment, they find that the commitment – whether that means staying in a residential treatment facility or heading to a treatment clinic at least thrice a week – is too much for their busy working schedule, which is necessary to help support the family.

A substantial number of Americans fear that if they get the help they need, they will lose their job, the respect of those they know, and their reputation. They fear the stigma and repercussions surrounding addiction, and they may think that if they keep their use under control (which they cannot), then everything will be fine.

Money, fear, and time – these are the primary reasons Americans don’t get the help they need, and the stress and pain of it all further feeds their problems. However, the alternative is much worse: long-term addiction, leading to potentially fatal overdoses, broken relationships, debt, a dying career, and worse.

Treatment is worth it, and the sooner an addiction is addressed, the better. No addiction expert believes that an addict needs to hit rock bottom before things get better – all an addict has to do is believe they need help and ask for it. Before that can happen, however, an addict may have to overcome the fear surrounding the decision to go into treatment.


The Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Addiction is still largely misunderstood. There are plenty people who believe what addicts need most is some tough love and the metaphorical crack of a whip as motivation. We’ve tried treating addiction through decades of incarceration, but the data then and the data now was always the same: it doesn’t work. Addicts are often aware that they’re destroying their lives. They’re often aware they’re hurting others. It’s not that they don’t care – it’s that they can’t stop. And that eats them up inside, which leads to a dark and slippery slope towards death.

No one chooses addiction. People choose drugs – but they don’t choose addiction. And once they’re addicted, the only choice they can make is to get help. When that help doesn’t work, they need the mental state to keep going, and to try again. Without the support of friends and family to convince them to go through with it all, many give up. Others stay sober for decades, but slip up due to one mental break, and accidentally end their lives.


Overcoming Stigma

Every case of addiction is its own little tragedy, and wrath and judgment will do nothing to help the millions of Americans struggling with substance use disorders. However, you can’t go and change the opinion of every American who maintains that addiction is a choice, and the only treatment is discipline. Instead, you have to move past that stigma, and realize that the only way to get better is to seek out help despite what other people might think of you, and despite the possibility that even after months, you’ll have to go through the process again at what feels like square one.

That’s because it isn’t square one. Every relapse feels like a failure, but it isn’t a failure. Not if you turn it into something else. Relapses are opportunities to learn more about yourself and your addiction, to figure out why they happened, and how you can prevent them. In the immediate aftermath of a relapse, there’s little time for reflection and calm collected thinking – but give yourself a chance, and understand that relapsing after treatment is common, and not a sign of failure, but a fact of addiction recovery.

From there, continue treatment. Don’t see it as a restart – see it as a continuation. And don’t stop. The relapses will end soon, and you’ll feel ‘in control’. That’s a dangerous feeling, because life isn’t something we can control. But it’s the first step towards learning to live a normal life again, before learning to let go of the anxiety and fear around relapses, and instead simply focus on the things that make you happy, keep you sober, and allow you to live your life without battling with your old habits.


Addiction Treatment Works

Addiction treatment is not a quick-fix pill or a cookie-cutter program – it’s a tailor-made plan built around you, as per the experience and expertise of people who dedicate their lives towards helping addicts live better ones.

For some, the crux of treatment is getting to live in a place without drugs, while a therapist helps you unravel the pain and misery of your childhood, as you rediscover your passion for sports and take on the goal of running a marathon. For others, it’s working diligently on your recovery while keeping your eyes on your job, taking time off work to get clean so you can make the strides in your career that you’ve always wanted to make. For some, it’s being a better parent and sticking to each step of the plan in order to overcome your addiction.

The core of every case of addiction treatment is a highly personal, highly effective motivator. For many coming in for the first time, motivation might even be an alien concept. Depressive thinking and anxiety are common among drug addicts, and hopelessness is a popular state of mind. It takes a few weeks of sobriety and the right kind of therapeutic support to get into the headspace to look at the bright side of the future and realize that you might still have a lot more life left in you than you thought.


Continuing to Break Stigma After Recovery

Addiction treatment is something you do have to choose, and it’s something you have to do on your own. But there’s not a moment when you’re not surrounded by help. Whether it’s professional help or the love and support of your friends and/or family, every case of successful addiction recovery is ultimately a team effort. You make it through because those who care about you want you to, because they show you that they care, because they give you the reason you need to keep going.

And you can be there for someone else, too. Continue to break stigma by helping recovering addicts see that there is a path forward, by continuing to visit local meetings, meeting new people, and speaking about your experiences and challenges. While every story is different, a new and unique perspective can be just what someone else might need to convince themselves to stay committed to sobriety that day. And the next. And the next.