Why is it that men and women in long term recovery resort to insults and calling other addicts in long term recovery “druggies’, “junkies”, “drug addicts” and other stigmatic names when they’re angry or mad at them? It just doesn’t make sense. While men and women in recovery are human and destined to get in arguments with one another, calling one another insulting names that only serves to further stigmatize addicts in inexcusable. And it happens all the time. If addicts in long term recovery can’t stop the stigma, how can we expect others to?
An Addicts Call to Stop the Stigma
Addicts in long-term recovery are desperate for a second chance at life. And while addiction treatment and recovery provides individuals with addiction issues with that chance, many people who either don’t understand addiction or have never been affected by it in someway often use stigmatizing names like those mentioned above, tearing them down. Most “normies” (individuals who don’t suffer from substance use disorder) who stigmatize addicts do so because they still believe and think that addiction is a choice.
Over the last couple of years however, recovering addicts have found their voice and have spoken out; using social media and blogs such as Facebook and our heroin support forum to fight back. No longer do addicts in long term recovery have to remain silent while they are attacked and stigmatized by the ignorant and arrogant. Thus, many recovering addicts possess their own Facebook pages and websites, creating live videos and writing articles in order to share their story and show the world that they’ve conquered addiction and have become upstanding members of society who love their children, have good jobs and no longer live a lifestyle of ongoing drug use. An addict in long-term recovery no longer lies, cheats, manipulates and steals and they are out there demonstrating this to the world. But then why do so many people still stigmatize addicts? Despite all the research available and at their fingetips, why do so many individuals claim that addiction is a choice?
Addiction is Not a Choice, it’s a Disease – The Simplest Proof You Need
To address those who believe addiction is a choice, we first have to define “choice”. What exactly is a choice and does “addiction” classify as one? Ultimately, a choice is always an action and being addicted to something is a state of mind. A choice is never just a state of mind. However, isn’t “addiction” just another word for ongoing drug use? If so, then isn’t addiction a choice?
Most individuals who believe addiction is a choice mistake the disease of addiction for the physical act and choice of using drugs. Instead, addiction can be defined as the chemical and physical changes in the brain that cause a cognitive compulsion and ubiquitous connection to a particular substance or activity. This occurs when a substance or activity touches the pleasure center of the brain a certain way, creating a reaction in the brain that makes whatever caused the reaction feel/appear/seem almost impossible to resist. This makes stopping the activity or use of a particular substance much more difficult for that individual than someone who hasn’t acquired the disease of addiction. See “Addiction Vs. Using Drugs – Why Addicts Can’t Just Stop Using Heroin” for more information.
Calling the disease of addiction a choice because someone made the choice to use drugs would be like calling the disease of diabetes a choice because someone made the choice to eat unhealthy foods. It would also be like calling the disease of lung cancer a choice because someone chose to smoke cigarettes. Nobody chose to become a diabetic nor to did they choose to acquire lung cancer, even though they mad certain bad choices in conjunction with possessing a genetic predisposition (nature vs nurture). Likewise, nobody chose to come an addict even though they made bad choices to use drugs.
The primary difference however, is that most people who acquire lung cancer or diabetes quickly enter treatment and end up stopping activities that could further exacerbate their disease. Someone with the disease of addiction develops strong cravings (because of the chemical, physical and structural changes in the brain) and typically keeps using drugs. However, it is still possible to choose help and treatment. But this difference does not make the disease of addiction and the physical act of using drugs the same thing. Using drugs is a choice, addiction isn’t. It’s as simple as that.
Again, ongoing drug use is a choice but it’s just much harder for an addict to stop whereas the actual addiction (the physical, chemical and structural changes in the brain that are responsible for the cravings) is not a choice. See “Proof that Addiction is a Disease: How it Affects the Brain” for more information..
Addicts Fighting Against Each Other
There is never an excuse for an addict to stigmatize another addict. Even if two individuals in recovery become angry at one another or don’t like each other for some reason, calling each other “druggies”, “junkies”, “drug addicts”, etc. is just not acceptable. After all, it is the recovering addict who is crying out to the world in hopes that everyone else will stop the stigma. But how can recovering addicts expect others who don’t understand addiction to stop the stigma if recovering addicts don’t stop the stigma themselves?
While it would be far better if everyone in the world got along and nobody got into heated arguments or fights, at the very least, we advise recovering addicts not to stigmatize one another and make the fight against stigma harder than it already is.
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Written and Published By William Charles, Owner/Publisher of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.