Stigma affects recovery for an addict

Stigma: A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person; when someone judges you based on a personal trait, like mental health.

Disgrace: Shame, dishonor; cause of shame; condition of being out of favor; loss of respect.

Respect: Regard; high or special regard; esteem; to consider deserving of high regard.

Grace: Unmerited help given to people by God (as in overcoming temptation); a virtue coming from God; approval, acceptance; honor.

Bullying: domineer, browbeat, intimidate.

No, the above is not part of a spelling or definitions list for a test at school, but these are a few terms intended to encourage everyone to think about what value each of them has in his or her life.

For instance, there was a time when red-haired people were feared as witches. Snakes still are hated as evil. And people who have made big mistakes are punished for their mistakes over and over again until they finally get things rightor perhaps never, because of stigma. They did this thing and can never live it down, are never going to be worthy of forgiveness and another chance.

In spiritual matters, one falls from grace when they fail to keep their faith alive and well. In everyday life people are disgraced when they succumb to substance abuse. And they are judged by society for failing to keep the acceptable social behaviors everyone lives by.

Addicts will tell you what happened to them. They will tell you they didn’t intend to become addicted. When they are in recovery for the long haul, they will commit to earning trust and grace from the people around them. They are ashamed because they violated a sacred trust with their families and friends. But trust, once it is violated, is not easy to get back. It takes time for people to see that the person in recovery is taking the process seriously, is doing what is necessary to be healthy and well. It can be done, but there is a lot of work to do to prove themselves.

Stigma has harmful effects. Family, friends and others who don’t understand addiction may believe the worst. There may be discrimination at work, at school, because the addict abused substances.

The addict may have trouble finding a place to live because nobody wants an addict living and dealing in their neighborhood among their children. The addict may be bullied, suffer harassment or physical violence. Addicts feel like they are in a black hole. There is no way out, no hope for them. And when they attempt to find help, sometimes their insurance coverage is not adequate for their needs.

Just taking the first step to getting help is a major accomplishment. When they really want to heal, to recover their health and their life, they don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame, they don’t isolate themselves, and they don’t label who they are by the disease. They join support groups; get help at school or from their employer. And they speak out against stigma.

Trust is a strong bond, but it becomes fragile when it is betrayed. Spirituality is an important part of the recovery of an addict, each person finding their own understanding of a power greater than they who loves them and forgives them, lifts them up.

Over the next three weeks, FRC will present a series of articles covering the community’s concern regarding the use of opiates in the area and the fact that many of those individuals are addicted today because of painkillers prescribed to solve a medical issue that led to abuse and addiction. Clients, family members and FRC staff discuss addiction and recovery from their experiences.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information about FRC and the help available, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail,