Addiction has been around I am sure since it was discovered that vegetation fermented. It
is no secret people have used alcohol in various forms throughout history. It is also clear
there has been a long standing public perception with negative connotation toward people who use and lose control. This may be the single most difficult challenge in overcoming the stigma of addiction.
There most certainly has been effort in history to outlaw the use of alcohol. There have
been successful (depending on how you calculate success) criminalization of drug
distribution and use. The bottom line is not the argument of whether alcohol or drugs
should be legal but rather what is the public perception of those who for whatever reason
are not able to use alcohol or drugs without abusing them or becoming dependent.
Throughout history there has been a hypocrisy regarding addiction. Beliefs about people
who drink too much or have used drugs (and maybe still do) carry strong sentiment. If a
child hangs out with someone who has used drugs, how easy is it to accept it as an
illness? Or do we fall into a protective mode suggesting they find friends who do not
have these problems.
Some groups choose to view this situation as self inflicted and therefore avoidable. The
problem with this view is that people who are addicted did not choose to become out of
control. They may have starting using recreationally or through experimentation, never
thinking they would lose control.
It is not unlike someone who overeats not expecting to end up with high cholesterol, heart
problems or diabetes. Society does not look at individuals with these issues and make a
judgment suggesting they did it to themselves. We have become very tolerant of many things but we still carry on the misunderstanding of addiction.
It would be unconscionable to suggest we avoid persons with high cholesterol, heart
problems or diabetes. Yet the stigma continues, justified in the minds of many
individuals. It is not likely those who are addicted will tip the tables and cause those who
hold these biases to find a new nobility of character. It is likely the stigma will continue.
For those who have difficulties with addiction, know there is very little difference
between alcohol, drug or food addiction. It is not dissimilar to the above mentioned
diseases. It is no more reasonable for you to blame yourself for addiction than it would be
to blame yourself for any other disease.
This is where we must take responsibility. It is not the stigma alone keeping people from
recovery. It is the issue of taking on responsibility for the addiction. What I mean is when
you know your cholesterol is high you begin to eat different, take the appropriate medications and see the physician as appropriate. If you are a person who experiences
addiction it is time to take responsibility for where you are with it. Determine where you
want to be and do what is necessary to improve your situation.
It will not be until people who are affected with drug and alcohol issues take up the
responsibility for where they are at with their own use that there will be any success in
overcoming the stigma of addiction.