Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Disease...You Give Yourself (stigma III)

Addiction, it's a disease you give yourself. When does the addict accept the responsibility for themselves and own up to that it is their fault they are addicted to drugs? No one forced the drugs on them. They chose to smoke that joint, they chose to take that pill, they chose to snort that line, they chose to jam a needle in their arm. Why is it societies problem? Why should I care?

We all know the arguments from those that start off with that very paragraph. Most times it does no good to quote the statistics so you appeal to logic. Many smokers get lung cancer or emphysema, no one doubts that lung cancer and emphysema are diseases and the medical community agrees smoking directly causes these diseases. Eating too much red meat and the wrong diet leads to heart disease. We even call that one a disease in it's name. Overweight, no exercise, improper diet leads to diabetes which in turn can cause blindness and amputations of extremities. There are countless injuries attributed to activities we do and we know those activities can lead to injuries. Sit and talk to runners and the discussion will eventually turn to the injuries they have or are suffering so they can run.

No one sits around and verbally beats up and chastises people with these diseases. Myself included, I have sent get well cards, delivered flowers, driven them to doctors appointments and cooked meals for them.

But the person that suffers from addiction is different. They deserve the stigma of ADDICT. Yep, in capital letters.

For myself I never used drugs. Not even when growing up. I had other vices. So it was very hard for me to accept the disease model and understand, why don't they just simply quit? In fact I freely admit it took me 5 years to understand. 5 long years of internal struggle with myself and struggle with my son on the outside.

Myself not using drugs at times still makes it hard to understand the, "Why start?" question. I assume there are as many answers to that question as their are drug addicts.

However, I do understand one thing. Teenagers do dumb stuff. I hope I can get agreement on that one thing by all. Teenagers have been doing dumb stuff since the beginning of time. I don't care how old you are or how conservative you are now, it is only by sheer luck you survived your teenage years.

Our teenage children do dumb things and some of them try drugs. Some of them put them down but some of them can't. For lack of a better way of saying it, switches are flipped in them that are not flipped in others. They become addicted because their brains are different and then their brain is about to become very different due to the chemicals. THIS IS THE DISEASE.

For those of you that never did anything dumb in your life, I'll accept your criticism and judgmental chastising. For the rest of us it's time to look at people suffering from addiction and alcoholism without a stigma. It is time to realize that there is a person inside there and without help and love that person will be forever trapped in their own prison. No matter what we do to them on the outside.

BREAK THE STIGMA. Change the dialogue. Nothing will get better until we do things different and change what we believe about addiction and those addicted.


Tori said...

As a teenager I didn't do drugs or get in any type of trouble but boy I can tell you I did some amazingly stupid things.

I hope one day that there is no stigma attached to addiction.

Liz said...

Thank you Ron.

Annette said...

We were recently told after my girl's most recent relapse that this was her "last chance" at in patient rehab. That if she didn't make it this time, she would be referred out to a long term methadone clinic that is not covered by our insurance. I thought about the disease model of addiction and I compared this interaction to if she had cancer or diabetes. "You aren't responding to our treatment so we are done treating you." Of course that does happen in terminal cases (hospice)....and this is a terminal disease, but we aren't at that point yet! Then there are the rehabs that kick people out for relapsing in the very disease they are being treated for. In effect "punishing" them for being sick. Back to cancer...if she had cancer and it went into remission for awhile and then came back it would be viewed as a tragedy and my girlfriends would be delivering dinner to my door. The dr's would be looking for new things to heal her. But if you are a drug addict that isn't so. I know there are variables involved....but if its a disease as the DSMIV says it is, lets at least be consistent about that!

Annette said...

Great post
Off my soap box now.

Lin said...

This disease is evil. Today we buried one of our son's closest friends. He name is Zack and he was 23. He had been clean for 6 months...the longest stretch ever in his struggle with heroin. He was doing all the right things, yet he picked up again a few weeks ago. Our son is also an addict who has been clean (this time around) for 60 days. I live in fear every day that he will relapse...Today I am brokenhearted for every addict and their family.

Addiction-A Mothers Perspective said...

Thanks for this post. It just touches my heart, and is a message that needs to be heard. I'm sharing a link to this on my blog.

Bar said...

Amen. I am talking to a lot of people these days and trying to get them to understand that addiction is a disease. I can tell the ones that aren't buying it. Now you've given me some new dialogue to use on them, and also what Annette said will be added to my usual spiel.

Dan Gibson said...

Your words moved me. I've witnessed that kind of stigma first hand when my father admitted to his alcohol addiction. Friends, or who we thought were our friends, began distancing themselves from my dad even though he sought helped and therapy for it. He was the friendliest person I knew and still they went. I'm with you and all your readers, in hoping that one day, the stigma breaks.

Dan Gibson @ Sweeney Therapy

Syd said...

So many people still think that addicts/alcoholics are choosing to be drunks and junkies. I wish that there were more who went to open AA meetings and could hear what the alcoholics have to say. Yes, there are underlying conditions that often are the pre-cursors to the disease. By genetics on my father's side, one would say that I dodged a bullet. I drank some in college, but not consistently. I did get drunk a few times and thankfully, did not want to repeat that experience over and over. I smoked weed some in graduate school and college but didn't get hooked on it. I didn't have the mental obsession and the physical craving for alcohol or drugs. I am grateful for that.

We too lost a good friend who I told about my wife's alcoholism. I expected understanding and support. Instead, I got a lot of judgement. The stigma is still alive and well for so many.

Mildred Ratched said...

Thank you for standing up and being brave enough to speak out against this stigma. It's the only way to truly educate people about this disease.

As a much younger person, ADDICTION (yes, capital letters!) touched my life and in many ways still does. I occasionally write about it on my blog.

Halfway Homes said...

I think a proper care of them and good communication can bring the success.

Brian Drey said...

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary for you to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it. We drink and drug because we have a fucking disease. And the fucked up thing is the enemy knows we can be broken down so it will keep attacking until he takes our lives.Make no mistake about it he will get us! Then all the things you could of been will be gone, and the help you could of been for so many people will be gone. We are alcoholics and addicts! If we want to get past the shame get in front of that fucking mirror say I am a alcoholic or addict and with that I have no choice! However I choose to live my life sober and clean! I choose to be free! I chose to show the world what I have to offer. Life has many turns and twist and we can get off course in a blink of a eye. However you can keep going in the wrong direction or you can ask for help and direction to get back on track. I hope everyone will find their way! I feel greatness from all of you! Now it all depends are we willing to give ourselves time for the greatness to manifest.

Anonymous said...

My dad is an addict. I love this