In the United States we face a problem of paramount importance, an epidemic of addiction. It goes without saying that addiction is not a new concept for Americans. Over the last 40 years we have gone from cocaine in the 80’s to heroin today. We also had a meth epidemic in between, a drug that has made a comeback in recent years. But, what Americans are addicted to is not as important as how people living with addiction are treated. By society, that is.

Nearly two months ago we discussed the dangers of stigma, and the impact it can have on effecting personal change. People can’t get help for a problem is they don’t feel like they can talk about their condition; therefore, being forced to hide their addiction. America has a long history of making addicts and alcoholics feel like criminals. And, like any good criminal, avoiding detection is of the utmost importance.

The last decade, however, has shown a different side of society’s ability to express compassion regarding mental illness. This is a byproduct of the opioid epidemic, which has shown lawmakers and law enforcement the nature of the addiction. They realize now it can affect anyone, no matter their background. With almost 142 Americans are dying of an overdose every day, society can’t talk about addiction as a lack of moral fiber. It is a disease, a disability that requires treatment and continued maintenance. And people’s ability to find recovery is dependent on society’s ability to no longer ostracize addicts and alcoholics.

Talking About Addiction

Perhaps you are in recovery from opioid use disorder, yourself. Maybe you have a son or daughter who is in treatment or is actively working a program of recovery? The point is, all of us, have a vested interest is seeing people get the help they need. This is why it is so important that we talk about addiction in the same way we would any other medical condition that can be deadly without treatment. It is a sentiment that is shared by Oscar-winning director Rob Reiner.

The “Stand by Me” director has, like many of us, been touched by addiction in his family. His son is in recovery. Reiner recently gave an interview to The Huffington Post, in which he issued a call to action. He believes that by talking about addiction openly, we can affect great change. Imagine facing addiction out loud in America. Careful to respect his son’s recovery, Reiner asks: “How can we get policy change if we’re silent?”

During the interview he expresses the pitfalls of “tough love.” By adding to the guilt and shame that addicts and alcoholics already feel the likelihood of recovery is diminished. Addiction is a disease that affects the whole family. Society, if nothing else, is an ocean, where every drop of water is a single family. When families talk about their loved one’s addiction, they give other families the courage to do the same. If every family spoke openly about mental illness as a disability, not a failing, it can create currents of change. Therefore, empowering individuals to seek treatment.

“We need to normalize what a lot of people are wrestling with. If you’re hiding it, if you’re trying to push it under the rug, what you’re doing is adding to the stigma,” said Reiner.

Out of Stigma, Into Treatment

We have a long way to go regarding the stigma of addiction. Encouraging more people to seek help, etc. If you are actively dependent on drugs and/or alcohol, we know that seeking help requires tremendous courage. The act of seeking help is in effect admitting to your friends and family that there is a problem. Some of whom may not be aware of your condition, or the extent of it for that matter. Hopefully, you will not let how you think they will respond keep you from seeking assistance.

If you have a loved one battling addiction. Please encourage them to seek treatment by way of compassion. Your support will make all the difference. Please contact Immersion Recovery; we can help you with the process.