3 Ways to Shed The Stigma Around Addiction

Stigmas Create Shame

The stigma around addiction is everywhere. Chalked full of ill thoughts and vile judgements. I have felt the stigma from being a family member, living around addiction. Today we will discuss 3 powerful ways to shed the stigma around addiction. Understanding that the false need to cover up, pretend everything is ‘ok’ and keep quiet, often perpetuates problems and sends all involved into a deepening cycle of isolation and shame.

Secrecy Perpetuates The Stigmas Around Addiction

Tell me, have you ever found yourself saying or feeling these thoughts:

“Shhhhh, don’t say that too loud, people are around. What will they think?”

“They will tell me I’m crazy to stay with them when they know they had to go back to the emergency room for detox, again. I hope I don’t recognize the hospital staff, what will they say?”

“I wonder if the neighbors heard all the commotion over here, please say they didn’t call the cops?”

“Oh shit, they might loose their job if the boss finds out they got a DUI, then we will won’t be able to pay the bills.”

“You know, they won’t let their kids come over and play if they know the truth.”

“They will most certainly think I’m a bad mother if they knew what my kids were really like, serving time in jail and constantly in and out of rehab.”

“If they really knew what my siblings were like, they’d think differently of me and my family, they would think our entire family is a joke.”

“Mom is drunk again, we will just say she’s sick today….those dang migraines she always gets. Can’t let the others know the truth, it’s so embarrassing.”

The stigma around addiction keeps us stuck in the shame cycle of addiction. Shame and secrecy keep you stuck in victimization, they diminish hope, and make you feel alone in the struggle. Today we will discuss 3 powerful ways that help you slowly begin to shed your own stigmas and shame around addiction.

3 Ways to Shed The Stigma Around Addiction

We have no control of the thoughts or actions of others, as we discussed in depth in this post. So, the only way to change the stigmas around addiction is to begin with yourself. You can start to heal your own stigmas and release shame around the addiction in your life, with these simple steps:

  1. Understand that you aren’t alone: According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have a substance use disorder. You are not alone! Millions of family members are going through similar situations, full of uncertainty, grief and shame.
  2. Find a Safe space to connect with others: You don’t have to share with everyone! Choose your community wisely. In order to feel safe and supported, find a place free of judgement. Because the decisions are often very challenging when it comes to living around addiction, it is critical to find support that will allow you share your experiences honestly.
  3. Share your stories: Though extremely uncomfortable, letting go of the secrecy around addiction is crucial to releasing the shame. When we hold onto the secrets, we allow the shame to build and the isolation to amplify. This secrecy intensifies as the actions of your addicted loved one continues. When the chaotic situations increase in severity (we call them the “Jerry Springer” times in our family), the perceived need for secrecy amplifies. Once the secrecy is lifted, and the truth is out, both you and your addicted loved one can begin to find ways for recovery.

Build Your Community

Undeniably, isolation and exclusion are toxic to healing when living through trauma. In the book “What Happened to you?”, by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and Oprah Winfrey they discuss the importance of connectedness during healing after living around trauma. Dr. Perry, noted in his studies that “Having access to a number of invested, caring people is actually a better predictor of good outcomes following trauma than having access to a therapist.” Not that he suggests that therapy isn’t good, or doesn’t work, it plays a critical role in healing too, as long as it has the “connectedness” variable.

So, take with you the 3 ways to shed the stigma around addiction and begin to build your community. Remember you are not alone! Always find a safe person or group that you trust. Release the shame by sharing your secrets and stories of living around addiction. Recovery and healing are accelerated by sharing and connecting with others who experience similar situations. Gain hope from others stories, learn from their struggles, encourage each other through the heartache and grief associated with living around addiction.

I created Soul Recovery for this very reason, to provide a sacred safe space for those living around the shame of addiction. Sign up for the next round of Soul Recovery here. Alanon is another wonderful option for loved ones of addicts. It is completely free, available across the globe and online too. Keep in mind, your community doesn’t have to be an addiction specific group. Remember, the key is that you feel free of judgement and begin to share your story and release the shame.

We heal better together! Scared about finding community? Try this weeks YouTube video to help build strength while reaching out for connection. Yoga To Build Community.

Sending so much light and love, Heidi

6 Minute Yoga For Building Community


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