Addiction is a chronic disease that claims thousands of lives each year. Modern medical science has devised many effective tools to help people recover from substance abuse. Yet, treatments for drug and alcohol abuse remain underutilized. Many addicts who could benefit from rehab don’t seek treatment. The reason being the stigma that surrounds substance use disorders.
Friends and family members often blame the individual who is struggling with an addiction. Despite a consensus among experts that addiction is a complex, chronic brain disorder, the public, healthcare professionals, and the justice system continue to view it as a character flaw and moral failure. The stigma and societal pressures put on people in recovery result in a challenging situation. That’s why many recovering addicts are afraid to talk about their struggles.
Why People Are Fearful to Talk About Recovery
Many people are afraid to admit they’re recovering addicts, even to their friends and family. This fear stems from a variety of factors, including:
- Societal pressures to be perfect
- Being judged as a failure by friends and relatives
- Being rejected from jobs
- Being unable to succeed in academics
Modern society sets a very high standard for people to be flawless and the same as everyone around them. Not only does peer pressure play an important role in initiating drug and alcohol use, but societal expectations can prevent a person from seeking treatment and getting the help they need.
Friends and Relatives
People who receive harsh judgment and criticism from their friends while battling drug abuse might be uncomfortable talking about their recovery. It feels safer never to bring up drugs and alcohol again. Also, there’s the worry that relatives who don’t know about the substance use will find out what’s been going on if one talks about recovery. As a result of these fears, recovering addicts don’t receive the support they need from the people that matter the most to them.
Studies show that prior drug or alcohol use is associated with a significantly higher risk of job loss. Among former drug users and alcoholics, unemployment rates are 15 to 23 percent higher than predicted in the absence of substance abuse. And this risk is even higher in recovering addicts with co-occurring medical disorders, no college education, very young or very old age, and those in the low-income segments of society. Therefore, the fear that admitting to past drug use might affect employment is not unfounded.
Young adults returning to college or starting university for the first time worry that professors and friends will think less of them if they find out they’re recovering addicts. They worry that sharing this information with new acquaintances will make it difficult to make friends because people are conditioned by societal views to stay away from addicts. Also, there’s the fear that a history of drug use may lead to rejections when applying for campus jobs.
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Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Admit You’re a Recovering Addict
If you are a recovering addict, it’s not easy to overcome the fear of admitting to your past substance abuse. But there are many reasons for you to stop being afraid. For one, owning your past is an important step toward developing a healthy routine for the future that includes all the activities you love and enjoy. Here are some reasons why you should work up the courage to talk about your battles with drugs and alcohol.
True Friends Don’t Judge
The people who truly love you will never judge you. Whether its relatives or friends, if they care about your wellbeing, they will support you every step of the way in your journey to recovery. They will take the time to understand that addiction is a disease, no different from cancer or diabetes. That recovering addicts face immense challenges and need the support of their loved ones. And despite this, if a loved one rejects you for seeking help, then let that be their loss. You should surround yourself with supportive people who help you in your endeavors to live a healthy, drug-free life.
Other People Have Faced Challenges
Addiction can be an isolating disease. Recovering addicts often feel alone because they feel people won’t understand their struggles. The truth is people face all kinds of challenges in life. The boss that you’re worried will judge you for being in recovery? It might surprise you to find she’s had a brush with addiction herself. The grandparent you think will love you a little less because of your past drug use? They might turn out to be more empathetic and supportive than you imagined.
Society is Changing
Widespread public education has demystified addiction and substance use disorders. These medical conditions are now less taboo than they were in the past. Although the change has been slow to occur, societal expectations are changing. People don’t view substance abuse as a lack of willpower or moral failure anymore. There’s a deeper understanding of addiction and the stereotypes and preconceived notions associated with it.
If you are in recovery, know that you have done the right thing by seeking help. Whether you’re on your way to recovery or you’re fully recovered, people will be more accepting of your past than you think. Friends and relatives will support you and be proud of your achievements. And as far as societal pressures go, you shouldn’t let them stop you from getting the help you need or living the life you deserve. It’s time to stop internalizing the stigma of addiction and stop being afraid to admit you’re a recovering addict.