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Living a life of sobriety can be extremely rewarding. You have worked very hard to make the decision to get sober, attend treatment, explore your feelings, and learn to understand your needs. It was not always fun, but you did it. Now you can lead a life filled with happiness and health. However, sometimes we face stigma even after living a sober lifestyle. There are many different reasons that we face stigma. Learning to move past that and not let stigma affect you will be an important learning process.

What Is Stigma

Understanding when you are facing stigma is key to being able to work through it in a healthy manner. Stigma involves negative attitudes or discrimination against someone based on distinguishing characteristics such as mental illness, addiction, or health condition. Mental health has come a long way in the sense of societal acceptance; however, a stigma surrounding mental health issues and those who suffer from them still exists. It is important to point out that there are two types of stigma. There is social stigma, which is what most people immediately think of when hearing the word stigma. Social stigma involves the prejudiced attitudes of others towards mental health topics. The other form of stigma is called self-perceived stigma. Self-perceived stigma is the internalized stigma a person feels about their own struggles. Understanding your own thoughts and feelings will help to understand how to best approach your feelings towards stigma. 

Impact of Stigma While in Recovery

The stigma you face as a recovering addict may be different than what a person with an active addiction may face. However, that is not always the case. The impact of stigma can drastically differ from person to person. What greatly affects you may not even slightly affect someone else. When we face stigma as a sober person, it can make us feel as though we didn’t accomplish anything, or that the hard work we put into getting sober wasn’t a big deal or something to be celebrated. Stigma faced as an individual in recovery can cause self-doubt, fear, social isolation, and increased stress. Stigma may even make us not want to meet new people for fear of rejection or having to explain our past. We may fear applying to a job or a college. Most people think of stigma as only something a person with an active addiction may face. However, even into recovery, we face challenges and stigma that we need to learn to work through in a healthy, productive manner. 

Why Do People Experience Stigma

We know all of the hard work we have gone through. We know the time, energy, and dedication it took to get sober and begin leading a successful life of sobriety. It is hard to think that others do not understand what we have gone through, do not know our struggles, and do not give us the acknowledgment that would be appreciated. Some people tend to think of us still as addicts. They knew us as an addict and still treat us in the same way. They may think because we made certain decisions as an addict, that we would still make similar decisions and lifestyle choices. Others may not know us, but still judge us by stereotypical judgments that addicts face. We may be leading a healthier lifestyle than those judging us. Learning to have compassion and empathy for those doing the judging will help you let the judgment roll off your back. When we approach a situation with empathy, it can be easier to not take things so personally. Everyone has problems in life, and sometimes the people most vocally judging others are actually suffering the most internally. 

 Importance of Self-Acceptance

One amazing way to fight stigma is to have a solid foundation of self-love and self-acceptance. Not needing validation from anyone is a powerful thing. If someone does not see your hard work and dedication, it will mean very little because you know and acknowledge your own hard work. You know how much change and transformation you have gone through, and it is okay if others are unable to see that change for themselves. You did not change for them, you changed for yourself. When you accept your flaws, mistakes, and choices, you are fully in control of how you let others make you feel. Self-acceptance was probably a life skill you worked on during treatment. It is a good skill for everyone to work at, and one that you will want to work on throughout your journey of recovery. 


Facing stigma as you journey through a life of sobriety can be challenging. You did amazing work to get sober and live a healthy life, and for someone to not see that can be hurtful. Stigma can lead to self-doubt, stress, and resentment. It can make you scared to form new friendships or have new experiences. Learning to have a solid foundation of self-acceptance can help you battle through any stigma you may face. Not needing any sort of validation from others is extremely powerful. When you know how amazing it is that you got sober and are now living a healthy lifestyle, you do not care as much what someone else thinks of your journey. Every person has a unique journey, unique challenges, and faces their fair share of tough days. The key is to remember how great you are doing. We here at The Guest House want to remind you that you do not need to face these challenges alone. Our professionals are able to help you face challenges at any stage of the recovery process. Call us today to learn more at (855) 483-7800.