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Our Culture of Shaming Addicts

We have a cultural tendency to stigmatize addiction and to shame individual addicts for the illnesses they’re struggling with. We perpetuate stereotypes that addicts are criminals, that they’re immoral people who use their addictions as an excuse to do bad things. We associate all addicts with being people we look down upon, people that get high all day and beg for change in the streets. We scoff at the idea giving our hard-working money to people who have wasted their lives on drugs. We resent government aid that we feel takes our tax money and gives it to people who are lazy, weak and not working hard enough to get better. We believe all of these false stereotypes to be true, and we start to outwardly and inwardly shame addicts, whether we know them personally or not. We’re unkind to people we see in the street. We’re angry with our loved ones still struggling with addiction and mental illness.

As addicts, we shame ourselves as well. We beat ourselves up and tell ourselves we’re not strong enough to recover. We feel ashamed of ourselves for all the things we’ve done wrong. We can’t forgive ourselves for the ways in which we’ve hurt people. We feel stupid for how we’ve hurt ourselves and pathetic for how self-destructive we’ve been. We’re embarrassed. We’re disappointed in ourselves. We’re increasingly impatient with ourselves when we haven’t recovered as quickly as we would have liked. We cause ourselves tremendous pain by denying ourselves compassion and understanding, just as we can feel hurt when people can’t empathize with us, relate to us and understand us.

Our culture of shaming addicts makes so many of us be silent in the face of our pain to avoid being judged. We would rather suffer alone in silence than have our loved ones be disappointed in us. We fear they’ll hate us, abuse us, throw us out of the house and disown us, and many of us do experience these things. We try to avoid all of the confrontation and conflict that can come with admitting we’re addicts. We suppress our most difficult feelings, we distract ourselves from our fears, and we try to escape our pain, all with the addictions that we feel so ashamed about.

Transforming our culture to be one of inclusiveness and understanding would save so many people’s lives. We would feel safe and empowered to ask for help when we need it. Great strides are being made in our communities and schools, and in the health care services being provided, but we still have a long way to go.

At The Guest House Ocala, our recovery programs include many experiential modalities including traditional therapy, conscious connected breathwork, equine therapy, somatic experiencing, art in healing, grief therapy, mindfulness and other forms of therapy. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.