Merriam Webster would have you believe that stigma is a noun. Yes, it’s a thing...
but it has to be practiced in order to be a thing…
Stereotypes are over-generalizations that lump major groups of people together in one mis-conceptualized melting pot of untruth.
They produce stigmas that are unrealistic.
Stigma does a lot of things when put into practice:
Stigma would have you believe that I was born a loser. A nobody.
That this is who I was at my core.
Stigma says there is nothing that we can do for ‘those’ people.
People like me.
Stigma would have you convinced that I wasn’t worth saving, and that any human who used other humans in the way that I had, wasn’t worth a second look, and definitely not a second chance.
Stigma would prompt you to turn the other way, overlooking any outstretched hand that is grasping into the darkness seeking and yearning for help- if the person on the end of that arm is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Stigma shames you into being too embarrassed to confide in your own doctor in order to reveal prescription or family history concerns with them.
Stigma keeps you labeled. For some, keeping the secret seems easier than being permanently labeled ‘addict’.
Stigmas keep our heads down, cries silenced, and our voices quiet.
The reality is this.
Addiction is tough enough to overcome as a primary problem itself.
How a person found themselves at that point no longer matters.
It becomes an issue of survival. How can we help a person who is at a point where they have lost all hope?
A large contributing factor in the shame that holds so many down, and that keeps so many silent is the mere thought of imagining what people would think about them if they did reach out.
The stigma that surrounds addiction and alcoholism kills people.
For those of us in Recovery who choose to speak out and tell our stories, we have to remember we are speaking for so many who are silent, who are afraid to reach out and ask for help.
We can help to be a voice for those who are still suffering in silence, or those who are in Recovery and who (respectively) choose to remain anonymous.
We can help change an old, washed-out perception held by so many.
That is the only way.