As an addiction counselor, I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who have struggled with drug addiction What I’ve learned is that addiction affects people from all walks of life, all races, all genders and all ages. In my experience, most people have a negative stereotype in their mind of what an addict is supposed to look like or act like, but the fact is, there is no typical addict. I’ve worked with doctors, lawyers and college students, all of whom suffered from a drug addiction. I’ve also worked with moms, dads, sisters and brothers, proving to me that addiction does not affect one single category of people.
The reason I bring this up is because many of the patients I work with often tell me that they are ashamed to tell others about their struggles with addiction. Even in today’s society, addicts are often viewed as degenerate or evil. Many addicts tell me that they fear rejection or they fear that they will suddenly be treated differently by friends and family if they come out about their struggles. Unfortunately, this leads to a whole host of new problems.
If an addict doesn’t feel as though they can speak up, they may feel ashamed or sad. This can then lead to increased using, only making the problem worse. Also, by not speaking out, the addict is only prolonging the process of healing, meaning they are spending one more day suffering. It’s often said that the first step in tackling an addiction is to admit you have a problem, but if you can’t admit your problem to others, then the process never really gets a chance to get started.
As a result, I want to encourage anyone reading this to really stop and think about how they view drug addiction and the people who suffer from it. Now, think about a family member, a loved one, a coworker or anyone else in your life that you are close to, and imagine that person suffering from an addiction. Are they a bad person? Are they evil or scary? Of course not! So, why should you think of anyone else with a drug addiction in those terms? The fact is, anyone is susceptible to addiction. No one ever starts using drugs with the intention of becoming an addict.
If you know someone in your life who is struggling with an addiction, it’s important to be supportive. Try not to talk down to them or be judgmental. I often encourage the families and loved ones of my patients to simply listen. Addicts who feel threatened or looked down upon tend to retreat into their addiction, so always try to offer a supportive hand. Of course, it’s also important that the addict in your life is at least attempting to make strides forward. While you should be supportive, you should also be firm. Setting guidelines and boundaries are great ideas, both of which allow you and your loved one to embark on the process of recovery together.