Let’s Talk About Addiction Stigma in Milwaukee

Lonely lady in brown sweater in addiction recovery

Addiction stigma is a complicated problem with no easy solution. The assumptions that many sober people make about those with addictions — and the misconceptions that people with substance abuse disorders often believe about themselves — can’t be undone overnight.

At Roots Recovery, we work with our clients and their loved ones to educate them and spread the truth: that addiction is a disease, not a disgrace. Continue reading to learn more about addiction stigma, why it’s such a problem, and what we can do about it together.

What Is Addiction Stigma?

By definition, a stigma is “a mark of disgrace,” according to the Oxford dictionary. In practice, this means that if you do something with a social stigma attached to it, people will often assume the worst about you. It’s all too common for uninformed people to assume a total stranger is weak, lazy, selfish, or compromised, solely because of a battle with addiction.

The truth, of course, is that addiction is a difficult disease that can affect anyone, regardless of their personality or circumstances. And getting clean isn’t about being “strong” enough; it’s about having access to the proper care. But unfortunately, too many people have been told to avoid or push away those with addictions, rather than taught how they can help and even benefit one another.

Where Does Addiction Stigma Come From?

Substance abuse can lead the user to hurt themselves and those around them through irresponsible, self-serving, or harmful actions. It’s entirely reasonable to not completely trust the word of someone who is actively abusing a drug and being controlled by it.

However, many people extend this stigma even to those who have completed rehab and are living successfully in recovery. Even though these people have proven they can get sober, stay clean, and live self-sufficiently, they’re often subject to unfair stigmas.

Why is Addiction Stigma Such a Problem for Those in Recovery?

For those in recovery, addiction stigma is both a personal and societal obstacle.

Those in recovery from addiction aren’t “cured,” they’re in control — which means that their cravings and negative thoughts aren’t gone, they’re just manageable. But when someone who already struggles with difficult desires and low self-esteem is repeatedly told that they’re “weak” and doomed to fail, it can undermine their ongoing success and recovery.

Addiction stigma also affects how those in recovery are treated in society. Sometimes these ways are obvious, as with companies that won’t hire someone in recovery, but it can also subtly impact whether someone is rented housing or given unbiased medical care — it may prevent someone from being hired without the hiring party even knowing they have a prejudice. This can become even more complicated as interpersonal relationships, from family ties to new friendships, can be colored by stigma.

Addiction Recovery at Roots Recovery

How We Can (Continue To) Destigmatize Addiction in Milwaukee

The good news is, as substance abuse education and knowledge have become more widely circulated in the greater Milwaukee area, addiction has slowly become destigmatized over the years. There’s always more you can do — and ways our team and education can help spread the truth about addiction.

If you don’t suffer from addiction, but want to help, the first step is getting educated yourself. You’ll connect more easily with those suffering from addiction, be able to set misinformed people on the right path, or even encourage your peers or workplace to look into addiction education opportunities.

If you suffer from a substance use disorder, it’s important to understand both how addiction works, and your own unique case. When you can identify the underlying causes of your addiction, see how it’s warping your thinking, and forgive yourself, you can start to be the person you want to be.

To learn more about addiction, and how we can help, call Roots Recovery at (844) 447-6687 today.