7 Steps to Dealing with the Stigma of Drug Addiction

stigma of addiction, woman sitting alone depressed

By: Sandy Baker

Individuals on their path towards recovery often face a number of obstacles along the way.

Many of them are internal, such as challenges with dependency and emotional wellbeing. Others are external, and these can be hard to overcome because you lack control over what happens around you. You do have control, though, over the way you react to those external challenges. How you interact and communicate after negative experiences defines who you are. It can help you on the road to recovery, too.

Consider these tips on overcoming the stigma of drug addiction, whether you hear it or just feel it. Sometimes, it may be your own thoughts and challenges that you need to overcome. Remember, your addiction is a disease that’s caused significant change in your brain. The stigma you feel is often brought on by a society that doesn’t understand or has ill-founded opinions.

#1: Recognize and accept your addiction.

This is where you are. You understand you have an addiction that makes it hard for you to make the best decisions. You also understand that you have a disease. Drug addiction is not your fault. However, you understand that as a treatable disease, you have the ability to recover from it with hard work. Accept this. It helps define the way you think about your addiction.

#2: Don’t try to go it alone.

Even if you could simply stop using drugs, chances are good you would battle significantly against stigma and its negative impact. Those struggling with addiction need a knowledgeable, experienced organization to help them detox, begin recovery, manage therapy, and promote healing of the body and the mind throughout the process. You don’t need to tough it out. You need to succeed in your recovery, and that comes from sustained support from a licensed professional and drug treatment center.

#3: Be honest about what you feel and what you’re going through.

When asked, be truthful about your road to recovery. It is not expected that you will move through this process with simplicity and ease. Rather, you are going to struggle emotionally and mentally. When others show a negative opinion of you, recognize that they do not understand the physical turmoil. More so, educating your loved ones about how hard recovery is allows you to showcase your struggle, encourage them not to go down the same path, and can help you get the supportive environment you need.

#4: Be a leader in your community.

As you work towards recovery, be vocal and speak up. Help to educate others in your community who do not understand the difficulties that all recovering drug users experience. Again, this helps you to recover and also provides an opportunity to encourage others to avoid the same use. While many people just out of recovery are not ready for such a leading role, those who are tired of the stigma may feel empowered to do something. Work with your drug addiction therapist and local resources to make this possible.

#5: Don’t feel like it’s “your” problem.

Though stigmas can be a challenge to face and feel hurtful, that stigma belongs to the other person. In other words, they don’t understand. They don’t get it. However, you do. You’ve worked towards overcoming this addiction, and that comes with a lot of sacrifices and hard work. No matter why you started using drugs or when, you’re a strong, determined individual to be able to be on the path towards recovery (even when you feel you are anything but strong). Recognize that other people simply do not get it, but that doesn’t need to impact you and your journey forward.

#6: Develop coping skills to rely on.

Even with all of this understanding of why stigma happens, it stills impact you. It’s important to develop healthy coping skills to guide you through the tough moments you may feel along the way. This may mean:

  • Seeking out someone to talk to when your emotions start to build up
  • Turning to exercise or another relaxing activity that you enjoy
  • Taking a break from certain people or activities until you can address them again
  • Getting into a meeting as soon as you can to discuss your feelings openly
  • Calling your therapist and team for support

These steps help you avoid a downward spiral that can lead to a negative outcome and even relapse for you. Develop healthy coping skills when you are feeling your worst about your addiction.

#7: Create a winning game plan for yourself.

The bottom line here is that it is up to you to define your future. With the help of your addiction treatment center, work to create well-defined goals for yourself. Determine what those goals will be for you, specifically. By setting goals and then working to achieve them, you accomplish several things. First, you are able to finally show those “haters” and individuals who do not understand just what you are made of. You’re accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. Second, you keep yourself on the right path forward. That’s going to help you to continue the momentum of recovery.
You cannot control what others around you think, but you do get to control your future and your recovery. Though a strong stigma is present for those who have used and are recovering from drug abuse, it does not have to define your life if you don’t let it.

When you work with a team like ours at the Ranch at Dove Tree, you gain the insight to be able to step away from that negativity. Take the first, and biggest, step now towards your recovery. Contact us to learn more about the programs we can offer to you.

The Fear of Being Sober: It's the Nagging Feeling at the Back of Your Mind - the ranch at dove tree - drug and alcohol treatment center in lubbock, texas

To learn more about our programs at Ranch at Dove Tree, please contact us today at 800.218.6727.

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Coping Strategies and Patterns of Alcohol and Drug Use among HIV-Infected Patients in the United States Southeast. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Nine Tips to Help You Cope With Stress. National Institutes of Health.