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.

Anonymous 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

Heartsick Mom said...

Our son is a meth addict. He has an 8 yr. old son, who lives with his mother. I have a few friends and family that I can talk openly with, but I have also been told, and I know, that they don't know what to say when I try to talk to them. As women, we are 'fixers', yet we all know we cannot fix addiction. Coming home from an annual girls weekend, my best friend says "no one is supposed to know this, but so and so's (another dear friend with us this weekend) son in law OD'd last week and his 10 year old son found him. He has been in trouble for some time, as has the daughter, and I didn't even know it!! As parents, we are ashamed, we feel guilty, we are also stigmatized by addiction. If one of our children had cancer, or diabetes, we would be supported. We could talk to each other about their illness, but with addiction we become secretive, we become isolated, and we are alone. Our society has to find a solution to this disastrous disease. The so called war on drugs that has been used in this country since the 1980's is not working. We all know you can not treat addiction with punishment, isolation, or shaming. When will society wake up?

Anonymous said...

Heartsick Mom,
You are so right. Tough love is for cowards and it kills thousands of people each year. See what happens is usually the addict overdoses. So as cowards we say that we knew the drug would take their lives. This is complete crap! That addict feels so alone in this world because their family says its best to turn their back on them. So each night they feel more and more alone in this world. They begin to convince themselves that they are worthless. So they increase the drugs more, more, and more until they die! Where does it say in any bible love and kindness for everyone except the addict? Listen in two years I destroyed my life and as everyone turned their back on me. I tried to kill myself more and more. By the grace of God I am still alive. My family all turned their backs and even today still treat me like dirt. That’s ok I created this mess so I deserve what I get. The best thing is I have a new family a family of alcoholics and addicts and I love them each and every one of them! I will not stop letting them all know they are loved by me. Listen it is a nasty evil world around drugs and I believe it is the devils world. So I understand why people back away. People used to call me Mr. Boy scout but I tell you on drugs I am a monster. So people back away and save themselves! The number of drug addicts increases each year and the number of deaths also increases. So let’s keep doing the same thing and see where that gets us. Let’s look at this closely, an evil spirit convinces you to use and unaware that you may have a dieses to this drug or drink. So you become addicted right away! You start tearing everything and anything around you apart. Then you have professionals tell your family to turn their back on you and when they do the addict or alcoholic over dose and die. Then your family has trouble living with themselves for the rest of their lives. It’s crazy to me! If your kid was dying and the medicine that could save their life tasted so bad they wouldn’t take it. Wouldn’t you take it to the drug store and find a flavor that your kid will like and save their life. Why is tough love so great when it kills thousands and thousands of people each year? Why not try something new? Isn’t there something that we can try that still lets our loved one know they are loved? At the same time not enabling them to live a life as an addict. This is why I have spent the last few months helping develop an app for the phone that will allow you to constantly send your love and kind words to the struggling alcoholic, addict, or the suicidal person.

Anonymous said...

When do we wake up? Why isn’t Christianity growing let me make this easy for everyone! Many Christian turn their back on to many people they become self-righteous and judgmental. I like to say these people are religious they go to church on Sunday and Holidays however don’t carry themselves in the word of the bible. I like to say religion is for people afraid to go to hell and spirituality is for people that have been to hell and never want to go back. Listen being treated like garbage from so many people did one amazing thing to me. I fell in love with human being. It wasn’t easy I wanted to blame everyone but then I wasn’t walking and talking in the words of the bible. I know that the bum on the street is just as important as the man that is heavily involved in the church. I wish I didn’t have to lose my dignity and my family and friends but I found God and spirituality and that means the world to me, because now I can help someone else liv42day. You can’t ever give to a person what you don’t have and I am filled with love and kindness now. If anyone gets a chance please watch this video it’s an app we developed that will allow you to send a positive message to your loved one each day. It bridges the gap between tough love and love. It was specifically built for suicidal veterans, alcoholics, and addicts because I have been all three of these. There is no pain like feeling alone in this world and wanting to die. I believe I am more likely to see Jesus walk through the doors of a group of recovering alcoholics and addicts before I would see him walk into a church. I barely staring to understand why I had to go through this. I was taken through this hardship to be a better man to open up my heart and extend my hand to anyone and everyone. I hope to share this with as many people as I can. I want to spread this throughout a city and you will see how quickly you become the city on the hill open your heart and extend your hand to everyone. This app will allow everyone to believe that they matter and to liv42day! Thank you for your post heartsick mom and you are doing the right thing stay strong and if you ever need to talk or have questions about the app please call me.
Brian (623)853-6244