destigmatize - verb
: to remove shame or disgrace from
We often use the term ‘destigmatize’ to illustrate how far we’ve progressed as a culture in our acceptance of social issues related to a specific group of people.
This makes sense.
Our feelings of shame and disgrace are two powerful indicators of how we perceive our social standing. Humiliation defines the former, while loss of reputation (or feeling ‘less than’) defines the latter.
If we assess our cultural acceptance based on this bar, then we have undoubtedly made drastic improvements in a lot of controversial social arenas in a very short period of time.
Now, it’s common knowledge that addiction is one of these areas of vast improvement. I mean, we are generally far more accepting and caring towards those with substance abuse issues than in the past…Right?
Sure. If by progress, you entail that one can openly talk of past alcohol issues or choose not to drink in a general group setting without feeling shame. Tho, admission of harder drugs might depend on the audience. But these are benign interactions, where the other parties go their separate ways.
Order a Coke ‘without the Jack’ on a first date? Not so fast. That awkward elephant in the room just joined you at the table and it’s ready to linger. Tell the truth…it pulls in closer. Say ‘you don’t drink’ and even the elephant gets suspicious.
In fact, spend a hot minute on my Bumble and you’ll come across ‘Swipe left if you’ve had any history of addiction…not interested’ front and center in 20% of women’s profiles. Criminal history? Irrelevant.
Yet, I get it. Addiction leaves a trail of destruction. It’s messy. And that’s a persons choice. Tho, it does illustrate the fear our society still harbors and, more importantly, how demoralizing it can be for those who are crushing it in sobriety and ready to move on.
Okay. So maybe you don’t fall into this camp or the addict is a family member you can’t just disown….and you’re saying, “I support their recovery in any way I can and will always love them!”
Well, let me ask you this. Has the REAL issue ever been with alcoholics who are clean and in recovery?
Think about that. As long as I don’t drink, no one cares if I once knocked back a Jack Daniels before breakfast. Just like no homophobic parent ever cared if their gay child dated the opposite sex.
Tho, even if family or friends suspect a relapse, all hell can break loose. Not dissimilar to that parent keeping a damn close eye on that guy their ‘formerly’ gay son’s been hanging out with.
Yet, 90% of addicts relapse in their first 4 years…making it far more the norm. In fact, it’s considered part of the process.
This number in and of itself reflects how ineffective our handling and reaction to addiction has been. And when I say ‘our’, I’m not just talking government policy. I’m talking about each and every one of us who interacts with a person struggling through the hell that is addiction…and the addict themselves. This will be discussed in future articles. For now…
To sum up our current view on this topic, I’ll leave you with two phrases I hear from family members of nearly every recovery client I work with…
“Why can’t they just put the bottle down and clean up their damn life?!”
“I’ll just lock the booze and hold their keys when they visit for the weekend. Should I have their cousin keep a close eye on them for good measure?”
Ummm. I ask you. Do those two statements reflect a progressive attitude? Or reflect an advancement in our understanding of what ‘physical’ addiction actually is?
And maybe we just got to the core of the issue right there. As long as the physical addictions of drugs and alcohol are used in the same sentence as smartphones and video games, progress can’t be made.
I’ll leave y’all with that to ponder over.
Until next time…enjoy!
Jeff Hanson, Founder