The impact of the stigma associated with addiction

By Logan Freeman, person in recovery

What is mental illness stigma? In relation to mental illness, stigma is when someone is marked or discredited somehow, or reduced from being a whole person to being a stereotype or labeled as a collection of symptoms or a diagnosis (e.g. ‘psychotic’).

The meaning of the word stigma is a mark, a stain or a blemish.

My association with dealing with being a drug-addict and alcoholic is to own it. That’s the first thing I learned in recovery in the 12-step program . In your heart of hearts you have to understand that you are powerless of substances. Once you’ve come to terms with that then you can start to develop certain life skills on how to deal with addiction by completing the 12 step programs. 

I had to learn how to stop really caring what people think of me for being these things, learn to stop understanding why I just can’t stop once I get started. Why can’t I be like other people and take it or leave it. Why if i lost everything  I  keep continuing to use drugs and alcohol?

Why can’t you be like (blank) insert anyone’s name that isn’t in active addiction. 

These questions I can’t fully answer even after several years of being sober. All I know is that YES I am still an alcoholic and drug addict but I don’t continue to use these substances. 

The social and economic stigmas of being called a drug addict or alcoholic might hurt your feelings at first but whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The power of understanding how to deal with these things will come after completing the 12 step program! It’s a self-journey that’s not only rewarding but life changing. 

Once you come to terms with being addicted, you will find that other projections of you won’t affect you anymore. I found that a lot of people don’t fully understand what addiction is, it’s an illness. There isn’t a stigma towards cancer patients but with addictions it’s the same thing, you have a cancer of addiction. 

Cancer patients need treatment – addiction patients need treatment. There are many different forms of treatment for addiction but the one that has continued to work with me and will work for anyone who is willing to be honest is sitting down with another addict and being truthful. It’s a full embodying experience that will transport you into a third dimension of thinking.

“I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. To me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher

Related reading: S is for Stigma blog post

About the Authors

Contributors to Renascent’s Blog share their stories of addiction and recovery and/or their professional expertise.