Rising Above the Stigma

A friend recently shared an article on Social Media about the challenges a physician experienced in dealing with depression, self-care and recovery.  You can read the Article Here.  While I could not relate to the experience of a physician’s experience, but overall it really hit home.  I feel like the points that were brought up were all relevant to someone who has dealt with mental illness or substance abuse.

One excerpt, below, really rang true:

The second lesson is about stereotyping. Alcoholics are stereotyped as deadbeats or bums, but being humbled in your own life changes the way you treat other people. An alcoholic isn’t a bum under a bridge or an abusive spouse: I am the face of alcoholism. I have been in recovery meetings with people of every color, race, and creed, from homeless people to executives. Mental health and substance-abuse conditions have no prejudice, and recovery shouldn’t either. When you live with such a condition, you’re made to feel afraid, ashamed, different, and guilty. Those feelings remove us further from human connection and empathy. I’ve learned to be intolerant of stereotypes, to recognize that every person has a unique story. When we are privileged as professionals to hear another person’s story, we shouldn’t take it for granted.

These are changes that I have definitely faced.  I don’t know what others think of me because of the issues I’ve had, and maybe I shouldn’t care, but I do.  For sure I have felt ‘afraid, ashamed, different, and guilty.’ I feel like I’m wearing a sign on my chest that says ‘Danger, do not give this man alcohol, he is an alcoholic.’  I don’t want this to be what defines me.  I am also a husband, a father, a professional.  If everyone really believes in the ‘disease’ model of addiction, then this should definitely not be the case.  You wouldn’t say ‘he has diabetes, watch out’!  Or criticize someone for dealing with a significant ailment in their life.  I realize addiction is different, it does hurt people, it does tear families apart, but a person doesn’t need to be condemned.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about AA meetings is the diversity in attendees.  Whether to have 10 cents, or 10 million dollars, you can sit in a room with someone and relate to their stories, you can connect through an experience that is so often isolating and lonely.

So to anyone who is struggling with addiction or depression, I will say this:

You are not broken, you are not dangerous, you are not a liability.  You are you!  Every part of you makes you truly unique and without all of this character, you would not be who you are.  Stay strong, believe in the journey, be proud, show love, and keep going!  Don’t let others label you into a stereotype, make sure that you celebrate everything that makes you unique!

-M

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One Comment Add yours

  1. While I disagree slightly with your definition of addicts as “not broken” (I think we’re all broken, addict, alcoholic, or perfectly healthy) I do agree that our stigmatization of addiction is an oppressive force. I was just writing about the topic today, actually. Thanks for your thoughts! And the link to the article!

    Like

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