The stigma of recovery doesn’t discriminate. It prevents people from seeking treatment. It creates tension and heartbreak among families. Moreover, the negative bias and judgment impact the legal system, workforce, and our healthcare system.
The stigma of recovery kills people. In 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that 128 people died each day from opioid-related overdoses alone. Approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year.
While you can’t control the stigma, you can control your response. By choosing to respond proactively, you can defeat your addiction and live a more authentic life.
Acknowledge Your Fears
Successful recovery means facing your fears. People use drugs and alcohol because they feel afraid. They feel afraid of shame. They feel afraid of their past trauma or of their insecurities. They fear unlovability and vulnerability.
The substances can and do numb the fear. But they only offer a temporary solution. Fear doesn’t go just away when you distract it. Fear simply waits in the background, ready to pounce at any given moment.
To acknowledge your fears, you need to identify:
What scares you the most about recovery?
What are you worried about losing?
How do you already know how to cope with fear?
Who are you worried about letting down?
Consider writing these answers down. Reflect on them. Become familiar with their role in your life. Consider discussing them with your therapist or other trusted professional.
Remember that fear isn’t bad. It’s a natural reaction to stimuli. We all experience fear- it’s what keeps our survival instincts strong and sharp. Identifying its role in your life helps you remain more responsive rather than purely reactive.
Consider What Stigmas You Believe In
You probably have negative misconceptions yourself. You just may not be aware of them. Some common stigmatizing thoughts may include:
Sobriety is going to be boring.
Nobody will like me if I’m sober.
That treatment center can’t help me.
Meetings or therapy are a waste of time.
I’ve already tried recovery, and it doesn’t work for me.
These negative thoughts reinforce intense feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness. They also perpetuate a self-defeating cycle. Your stigmas affect your actions. If you don’t believe you can do something, you’re going to find evidence to support that truth.
Practice Reframing And Challenging Your Negative Thoughts
You can learn to change your thinking patterns. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) practitioners believe that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intricately connected. For example, let’s say you believe that sobriety will be boring. That’s a thought, and it’s a powerful one!
To reinforce this thought, you continue to drink or use. Those are your behaviors. If you’re already in recovery, you may avoid engaging in new hobbies or interests. You continue to remain “bored.” This is also a behavioral pattern. It’s no surprise that you probably feel sad, frustrated, and even resentful.
Now, let’s explore how changing that thought can influence your behavior and feelings. Let’s say you reframe your thinking to, sobriety has the potential to be fun. If you believe in this notion, you might feel more motivated and hopeful. You might even start to seek out different activities you can do in your sobriety. Suddenly, a life transformation doesn’t seem so bad.
Challenging negative thoughts takes practice. After all, we hold onto our thoughts fiercely. We’re also often unaware of how much they influence the way we live our lives. Some strategies for changing thoughts include:
Asking yourself, how is this thought helping or harming me right now?
Exploring if you have actual evidence to support that thought
Finding more of a middle ground instead of using words like always or never
Examining how a new thought could trigger new behaviors
Build Your Supportive Tribe
Stigmas live and thrive in isolation. If you feel alone in your struggles, you may feel more insecure and ashamed. You might look at everyone else and feel irritated that things are so different or challenging for you.
The success of recovery often depends on your support system. You need trusted people in your corner. You need healthy and compassionate relationships.
Unfortunately, many people neglect their loved ones while in their active addictions. Maybe you lied or stole so many times that people no longer trust you. Perhaps you withdrew from everyone, and eventually, people stopped reaching out.
Friendships won’t happen overnight. You must put in the work and effort. Be the one who first reaches out. Initiate conversation and gatherings. Practice being the kind of friend you want.
Challenging The Stigma Of Recovery One Day At A Time
You can challenge and debunk the stigma of recovery in your life. No matter how much you’ve struggled in the past, change is possible. You deserve success, growth, and love. Furthermore, you deserve a meaningful and enjoyable life free from your addiction.
At The Resurface Group, we work hard to destigmatize both addiction and recovery. We believe in challenging the status quo. We also believe in unconventional, dynamic treatment that supports our clients’ unique needs. Do you want to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one? Contact us today to get started.