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Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction

“The Stigma of Addiction”

Our country is in crisis with an ever growing population of people who struggle with substance abuse. Even though studies have proven over and over again that addiction is a disease, societal expectations have not evolved to show support, empathy, and understanding in the face of this illness. Thousands of people struggle silently, battling their demons alone because they are afraid that is they seek help, friends, family, employers, partners will judge them harshly. It’s a valid fear because unfortunately, that, far too often, is the response to an addict's plea for help and support.

There’s a sense of disdain and moral superiority that much of out society feels toward people who struggle or succumb to this disease. The ugly truth is that this can and does happen to all types of families.. White. Black. Spanish. Asian. Poor. Rich. Single parents. Stay-at-home parents. Working parents. It can topple the structure of ANY family. Once more people understand and BELIEVE this, we can start to make real change and help those who need it. After all that is what we are Here for. Allow me to share a few stories, with names and circumstances slightly altered for anonymity.

John was the eldest son of a wealthy, family-oriented, wholesome family. He graduated high school with honors and was captain of his soccer team. He got a business degree from a good college and married his best friend. John got injured in a car accident, and he was prescribed Oxycontin for his back pain. John completed physical therapy, but still had pain so his doctor continued to prescribe the powerful pain killer for the next six months. Once the doctor stopped prescribing them for him, John started experiencing the tormenting symptoms of physical withdrawal. A friend of his told him a tiny bit of heroine would stop the pain, nausea, and shaking. He took his first small dose of heroine. Four years and three rehab stays later, John was found dead in his car in a local grocery story parking lot. It was just a few months before his first niece was born. John loved kids. He had everything to live for. His parents loved and supported him. His family stuck by him. And he Still succumbed to the disease.

Imagine what it would be like, how much worse and how much more quickly someone’s demise would be with NO support or resources. THAT is why we have an epidemic in this country. Not because addicts are morally broken, beyond reach, or undeserving of support.

Let’s now explore the story of Sarah. Sarah was often uncomfortable in social situations. She vied for the positive attention from the popular girls, and solicited the wrong kind of attention from the popular boys. Sarah’s father was a principal, her mother a hard worker, and an ever present force. Both were very involved parents. Sarah knew drugs were illegal and dangerous and had no intention of trying them...until she was at a party in high school and a pretty, popular cheerleader handed her a joint. She barely hesitated. Two months later, that same girl laid out a thin white line of powder. For the next six months, Sarah’s personality took a 180. She was rude to her parents, snuck out at night, and started skipping school. She completely dissociated from the family girl she had been before. Two rehabs stays and fourteen years later, Sarah has a five year old daughter, a house, and a man who loves her. She has thirteen years clean.

So what’s the difference? Both came from good homes. Stable, loving homes. One person survived into a life of love and normalcy. The other tragically passed away, alone. The difference is...there isn’t one. That’s the point. We are all the same, connected threads in a tapestry of life and connection. To feel above someone else is to put yourself down. To judge someone is a reflection of one of your own fears. To support someone is to them AND you because you are allowing the best version of yourself to shine through. Every family has their problems. EVERY family. Reframe them into an opportunity to be who you really are, to experience the role you came here to play! Caregiver. Discipline. Strength. Forgiveness. Bonding. Helping. Humanity. Fulfillment. A sense of Purpose. In all things, choose LOVE. Your Soul will be all the happier for it.

Love,

The Hot Mess Mama


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