Many stereotypes and stigmas surround addiction and abuse. More, varying stigmas and stereotypes surround those that use specific drugs or alcohol—as though this particular drug or drink of choice defines them. Of course, it is crucial to understand what kinds of substances those suffering from addiction are using when seeking help. There are varying treatments that will help them—however, it is unfair when biases about alcohol or the drug of choice follow them through sobriety. These prejudices often interfere and could even dictate the future of the person in recovery. They could also lead to lowering one’s self-esteem and causing a relapse.
Addiction Is a Disease
It is ignorant to judge a person based on their addiction and the drugs and alcohol they use. Most people who think and act this way overlook addiction as a disease. They also often overlook a person’s success at managing recovery and, instead of encouraging them, they ridicule them. How can someone in recovery achieve equal acceptance and opportunity without having to carry around their past choices?
When It Is Relevant for Others to Know
Honesty and trust between you, your doctor, and your therapist is a must. Whether you are in the throes of your addiction or months to years into sobriety, you must share your addiction history with your doctor or therapist. Expressing what you are/were addicted to can help you recover your health in significant ways. This trust will help you work together to sustain lasting recovery. A better knowledge of your experiences with drugs or alcohol will help a doctor or therapist appropriately prescribe any medication or treatment. More importantly, it will help them monitor you because a relapse could occur even when appropriately prescribed.
It might also be beneficial to let others from your support group know. When you trust others in recovery who understand, you can make deep connections with those that struggle in similar ways, and you might discover that you can recover together and in similar ways. Also, certain experiences with drinking and drug-use expressed in this setting help reveal the range of emotions you felt when using. It may offer a look into circumstances stemming from past trauma. Remember, in a safe setting like a recovery meeting, there is no shame in admitting what you used and how much you used. People are there to support and offer guidance for you—not compare or compete with your problems. This is something that is harder to achieve with friends and family who have not experienced what you have.
It’s About What YOU Think
Don’t judge yourself based on what others think. When you allow your inner critic to believe others’ opinions, you risk the chance of second-guessing what and who you truly are. You begin to challenge your ability to make choices for yourself. However, you know your values and you know your worth. What is important now is where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Setting good values and practices will always help center you when you feel doubt set in. You will learn to trust yourself and stop putting so much weight on others’ opinions—especially if they are not there to lend any positive help to your recovery.
You are also not responsible for how others feel. Don’t try to please everyone because being a people pleaser will sabotage your progress. You know who you are, and you know to avoid the negative energy presented by those who judge you. Continue recovery on your terms. Understand that the judgment you face stems from fear and ignorance. Never take things personally and remember to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself to friends and family that support you. These friends and family will always have your back.
While you can choose to dismiss somebody who is harmful to your recovery, sometimes it is not as easy as just walking away. Discrimination among those with past addictions exists in both the outside world and the professional world. Further, while an employer might say that they reserve judgment, if they believe something about addiction that stems from a stereotype or stigma, it may negatively influence their decision to employ you or maintain your employment. What is more unfair is that those who suffer from opioid addictions are often considered less reliable and therefore have a greater struggle to attain a job, even if they have been sober for a long period.
It is unjust and unfair. However, while you might not be able to change someone’s mind on a personal level, there are legal actions that you can take if you feel discriminated against. Before any legal action, you should always be honest and forthcoming with your employer about your addiction. You do not have to divulge things that you might express to a trusted friend or doctor; however, be honest enough to let them know about your past struggle with addiction and how you have been managing sobriety. If you are an otherwise great employee, this could be enough for your employer to trust that you are moving forward. Expressing your motivation for sobriety might even inspire a potential employer to hire you.
Americans With Disabilities Act
If you still feel that you are wrongfully discriminated against in a professional setting, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) could protect you. While it does not help if you are still abusing drugs and alcohol, the ADA does recognize substance abuse as a disorder and, therefore, a disability. If you are in recovery and have not used drugs, any discrimination from the employer that hinders your equal-opportunity could come under scrutiny in a court of law. While you cannot change how somebody thinks about addiction as a disorder, these acts exist to cause them to tread carefully and be fair when making their decision.
Unfortunately, stigmas and stereotypes are still among us, but the good news is that younger generations are being educated to better understand addiction and its relationship to mental health disorders. Further, the youth have spoken out about their anxieties and depressions. The more society can accept, understand, and treat these disorders of the brain, the better we can treat these disorders at the onset before developing into a comorbid addiction. However, much more research is needed to understand the brain and how it functions, and your story and your recovery is helping to build toward that. Understand that you are not the person you once were and that there are safe places where you can grow to your full potential.
If you are still feeling doubt and shame from society’s scrutiny, there is help, and the time for it might be now. True Recovery offers 24/7 care that will not only help you find the treatment and resolve you need but will also be an ear to listen to you. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.