The Stigma of Addiction: Changing our Perceptions

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

Change Perspective

The way that we talk about ourselves, our life experiences, and others says a lot about how we view the world. Our society holds many different perceptions of social phenomena – some positive, and some not so positive. Unfortunately, when it comes to the world of addiction recovery, there tends to be a lot of stigmatized language that only further promotes exclusion and discrimination.

Rather than shaming those who battle with addiction, we need to open our hearts and minds to them – because true support is what will help them more than anything.

How Language Affects Us

Consider some of the words you’ve likely heard to describe others who have battled with addiction. What do you hear most often? Here are just a few that quickly come to mind:

  • “Addict”
  • “Tweaker”
  • “Drunk”
  • “Alcoholic”
  • “Junkie”
  • “Pothead”
  • “Stoner”
  • “Druggie”

Addiction is a very sensitive topic, but certain choice words – such as the ones listed above – only perpetuate negative discussions about addiction rather than positive discussions that can lead to healing and recovery. These words tend to make people feel as if they’re solely their addiction, and nothing more. They also reinforce the idea that a person who has struggled with addiction can and never will be more than their circumstances. Because of this, a person who is called names like these may feel as though they’ll never get better. Rather than feeling inspired to pursue recovery, they feel like giving up instead.

First-Person Language: What It Is and How to Use It

First-person language focuses on the person rather than their circumstance. For example, instead of calling a person an “alcoholic,” we can call them a “person who battles with alcoholism.” This may seem like a small change, but it can have a major effect on others in the long run.

Studies have found that people with addiction and even mental illness may have difficulties seeking help because they don’t want to be labeled, judged, or criticized for what’s happened in the past or the choices they have made. As humans, we all have battles that have affected us deeply – and those who want to recover from addiction are no different.

Even calling someone an “abuser” can cause them to feel less like a person and more like someone who doesn’t deserve recovery, healing, or happiness – and that’s simply not true. We are human, and we make mistakes. We all have the potential to overcome our obstacles, whatever they may be.

As a nation, the way we speak about important topics like addiction recovery can have a huge impact on the way the people in addiction recovery are perceived. It can either lift them up and help them heal – or it can put them down and spiral them even further into addiction.

Practicing Greater Support As a Whole

If you know someone who is battling with substance abuse, make an active choice to lift them up in recovery and get to know them as a person. Rather than associating addiction with being “dirty,” “disgusting,” or other negative terms, we should consider addiction as a disease that needs support for a person to seek help. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how difficult it must be to make it from the darkness of addiction to the light of recovery.

Studies have shown that addiction truly is a disease. A person who battles addiction doesn’t have the control to simply “stop” taking substances or to lessen the amount of alcohol or drugs they use. Once addiction has taken over, the mind and body are so overcome by the disease that the person has no sense of control over what they’re thinking or doing. Their actions change and they plan their lives around their substances. They may lie, steal, or do things they’re not proud of, all in an effort to pursue their addiction. This is because substances can change a person – and we have to remember that distinction of who we know that person to be, versus how the substance is affecting them.

When our loved ones are going through addiction, they are truly not themselves. They turn into someone we hardly recognize. Rather than punishing them as a society by what we call them and how we talk about them, we must open up our hearts so more healing can take place. We need to guide them to seek help and turn their lives around, and then do whatever we can to ensure they get there. Negative language surrounding addiction only perpetuates the belief that people who struggle with substance abuse don’t deserve a better life – but as we already know, they absolutely do.

Seek Help Today

If you or a loved one are fighting addiction, speak with a professional from Avalon Malibu today. It’s never too late to seek the help you need – and with an entire healthcare team right here next to you, you’ll be surrounded by services and support that will uplift your success in sobriety. Take that first step towards healing today. You won’t regret it.

Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at (844) 857-5992 for a consultation. Together, we can help you find the new life you deserve.

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