There has been a lot of stigma about addiction. Society portrays people with substance use issues as outsiders, miscreants, living on the street and on the fringe of society. But we know that addiction is me. It is you. It is us. Addiction affects human beings from every walk of life, at every age. We are all human beings who live and breathe and love like everyone else, no matter our station in life. When people realize that we are all addicted, only then will perceptions change. When we stand tall and tell our stories, then we can smash the stigma about addiction and recovery.
Our Own Stigma
One of the biggest stumbling blocks of stigma is that we ourselves have bought into it. If we believe that we are the stereotype that society has painted of addiction, then stigma has won. Self-loathing tends to go hand and hand with substance use, but it is neither productive nor helpful to our cause. When we buy into the stigma and wallow in our self-loathing, we become what we believe about ourselves.
We can learn to separate our behaviors from our true selves and learn the art of acceptance. We can learn about what addiction is, why and how it affects us, and how our behaviors can change when we seek treatment. The first step in smashing stigma is to convince ourselves that we are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, graces and challenges, just like everyone else. No one is perfect, but when we suffer from substance abuse issues, it doesn’t make us less of a person. It makes us more human. It gives us the opportunity to affect change.
Other People’s Perceptions
It can be difficult to change other people’s perceptions, sometimes it’s impossible. That doesn’t mean that we should give up. One of the most powerful ways to affect change in this world is by living authentically. By showing the world who we are, every single day, and experiencing and sharing human emotions side by side with other people, we can change the world.
The perceptions of society are formed from the media, especially the entertainment industry. In the year 2020, there are still parts in plays, movies, and television shows portraying “the town drunk” or “the crack addict.” The ignorance that is perpetuated so profusely is very powerful, but often on a subliminal level. This is why we need to live courageously and without shame, our real-life experiences with other people will create a conscious representation of human beings who live with addiction. When we are able to convey the reality of what substance abuse and recovery looks like, then we can truly change other people’s perceptions.
Education Conquers Ignorance
Another way to influence change is to help educate others about substance use. When we are willing to talk about our experiences, we can also educate others about what substance use is and is not. We can clarify misconceptions and share knowledge so that others are better informed. When people are educated, ignorance makes way for tolerance, acceptance, and support. Education humanizes substance use and empowers people to relate instead of judge, to support instead of dismiss. Education smashes stigma and creates space for everyone to grow.
It can be difficult enough to face our own truths, to fight the stigma that is deeply rooted in our own lives. It takes true courage to share our truths, to stand up and speak out about things that we ourselves have been ashamed of. However, there is power in being courageous. There is power in doing something that exposes the truth and legitimizes humanity. That power lifts us up and helps us to realize that we are brave. Sharing our truth can help lift others. Being honest and authentic helps to reinforce our own existence.
There is something else that comes from our courage in standing up and sharing: we can become role models in other people’s lives. When we talk about our own experiences with substance use and recovery, we can help empower others to face their own substance use and to make changes in their lives, too. When we normalize that which was stigmatized, we open doors for others to grow and find their own recovery.
Educating others about substance use and sharing our experiences can take courage, but when we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, we can change the lives of other people. Even if we did not have anyone to light the way or educate us, we can open windows and doors for other people and create a generation of change that can last forever. We can be heroes for the present and the future. With a ripple effect of knowledge and wisdom, we can change the world.
Breaking the stigma of addiction and recovery begins within ourselves. As we learn to accept and learn more about the forces within us, then we can live in a way that humanizes substance use and changes the perceptions of others. That conversation can lead to education and empowerment that not only affects change in perception but also can inspire change in others. We can change the stigma. The power is within us. Our own transformation can also change the world.
Change the perception of addiction and recovery. Stand tall and be the face of change. Call AToN Center at (888) 535-1516 now.