Drug Addiction – Not My Son | Part 1

Drug Addition – Not My Son is a common refrain. Parents can’t even imagine let alone consider their child may be developing (yes, developing) or have the brain disease of addiction. This is due in large part to society’s utter lack of understanding about the nature of this brain disease, the key risk factors contributing to its development and what parents can do to halt the progression or help their child once it’s taken hold. Yet, “[a]dolescence is the critical period both for starting to smoke, drink or use other drugs and for experiencing more harmful consequences as a result. The teen brain is primed to take risks including experimenting with these substances and, because it is still developing, it is more vulnerable to their harmful effects,” according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Use at Columbia University’s 2011 report, “Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem,” page i.]

It's not uncommon to hear parents say, "Not my son," when it comes to talking about a child's drug misuse | addiction. Mother D is one such mother and will be sharing her story beginning with today's Part I: The Journey Begins.

It’s not uncommon to hear parents say, “Not my son,” when it comes to talking about a child’s drug misuse | addiction. Mother D is one such mother and will be sharing her story beginning with today’s Part I: The Journey Begins.

It is a great honor to carry this series, “Drug Addiction – Not My Son,” by Mother D, which is obviously a pseudonym for the real mom, a pseudonym still necessary, today, in order to protect her son’s identify because of the shame and stigma that surrounds this disease of addiction. To shatter this shame and help other parents avoid her family’s nightmare, Mother D has chosen to share the story of her son’s addiction and his and her own recovery journey.

Drug Addiction – Not My Son | Part 1: The Journey Begins by Mother D

On the evening of October 5, 2010, I got the phone call every mother dreads. My son, who was attending college in another state, had binged so heavily on alcohol and drugs that he had a complete psychotic break from reality. Horrified friends had dropped him off at a local ER, I was told by a terse social worker. She suggested that I come get him, and, after hastily answering a few questions, hung up.

Less than two hours later, I boarded a plane and found myself stunned, frightened, confused and soaring 30,000 feet above the earth towards what felt like another planet. Now, almost four years later, I realize that I had indeed been hurdled into another world—one that I had heard about and read about, but one I never thought I’d be a part of—the world of addiction.

We are all surrounded by addiction in our society. Documentaries, newspaper articles, stories, and rumors regularly circulate about the addiction of stars, athletes, politicians, acquaintances, and neighbors. With such exposure, most people think that they understand this world. However, until one is forced to deal firsthand with its nightmarish landscape riddled with mirages and booby-traps, it is impossible to understand what a terrifying, confusing, and destructive place it is.

And, there is not a clear or easy way out. All souls who find themselves in this world have to navigate blindly, and mostly alone, through fields of unmarked land mines. I’m hoping the story of my journey might help to point out a few of those land mines along the way.

The Journey Begins

Unbeknownst to me, my journey began years before I answered the dreaded 2010 phone call. In my mind now, I consider the day we sent our son off to college as the beginning.

Ron (as I will call him in respect to his desire to stay anonymous) had been an easy child to raise. He was bright and sociable, always maintaining good grades and plenty of friends. Because as a teenager he was so devoted to sports, his interest in drugs and alcohol was minimal. Once he could drive, Ron was usually the designated driver, and he would frequently come home sharing stories of safely dropping off his drunken friends to angry, but appreciative, parents. Teachers and coaches alike would report to us that Ron had a “good head on his shoulders,” and that “his strength of character” would take him far.

My husband and I, both college graduates, have had a strong marriage, and we have showered our son and daughter with nothing but love and positive attention. I chose to be a “stay-at-home” mom because we felt that such an arrangement would be the most advantageous for raising healthy, well-adjusted children. For the same reason, we have both been active participants in their schooling and extracurricular activities. My husband has been a great provider, and we have enjoyed the comforts and opportunities of a stable middle-class life.

Given my son’s profile, upbringing and family background, my husband and I watched with pride and confidence as he boarded the plane headed toward his freshman year at a highly respected university.

Here, perhaps, is a good place to point out a landmine, one that I had been warned about, but one that I certainly hadn’t paid attention to: The disease of addiction can and will manifest itself at any socio/economic/educational level, and there is no amount of preventative upbringing, love, attention, or education that can guarantee safe keeping from it.

Most unfortunately, parents cannot immunize their children against addiction.

Our unrealistic belief that our son was “immune” to addiction, I now believe, allowed us to overlook many ominous signs pointing to his trajectory into it.

The Power of Denial

It’s hard to separate out normal young adult behavior from behavior that is abnormal, given that most seventeen to twenty-five year olds do experiment with alcohol and drugs while simultaneously trying to “cut the apron strings.” So, when Ron came home drunk after parties during spring break or started acting rebellious, we chalked it up to his age, especially given that he was maintaining good grades at school—at least for his freshman and part of his sophomore years.

Then, other signs began to pop up. More than once he lost his cell phone, or, admittedly, “dropped it into his beer.” More than once he couldn’t find care packages we sent from home. More than once he visited home with a black eye. “Just friendly wrestling with friends,” he explained.

After his freshman year when my husband and I would fly out to attend a football game or school event with him, he would spend minimal time with us and then disappear. Over time he became more and more fidgety, nervous, overly sensitive, negative, hot-tempered and less concerned about his waning grades. Frequently his younger sister expressed concern that Ron was “acting weird.” Then, shortly into his junior year, friends from home told him he’d changed and quit hanging out with him during school breaks.

“Oh, he’s just under pressure at school, “ we would tell ourselves. “Oh, all young adults act weird when they’re trying to ‘find themselves’.” “Oh, it’s just hard growing up.”

The power of denial is unbelievably strong, and my husband and I were powerfully steeped in it. We could rationalize anything away, including his declining personal hygiene and appearance. “He’s just getting into grunge,” we told ourselves.

And then his grades began plummeting, and then he quit calling home, and then he quit answering or returning our calls.

And then, I got the call.

I will end this post pointing out the second obvious landmine: Denial.

Sadly, much of denial stems from our lack of understanding of what addiction is and how it can manifest itself. Like most other diseases, addiction is non-discriminatory. But, also like other diseases, there are signs and symptoms that present themselves long before the disease becomes full-blown. Here are some warning signs from HELPGUIDE.org:

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.

In retrospect, it is absolutely clear to me that Ron had been struggling with addiction long before he hit a crisis level, and, although I certainly was aware that addiction existed in our world, I was in denial that it had anything to do with my own. Disease can present itself unexpectedly to anyone, and the disease of addiction is no exception.

Please look for my next post: “What Next?”

Are You in Denial?

Are you in denial? Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True YouDarlene Lancer explains the concept, how to recognize and ways to get help in today’s guest post…


Denial has been called the hallmark of addiction. It’s true not only for drug (including alcohol) addicts, but also for their partners and family members. Of course, we’d barely be able to cope if we worried that we or people we love could die today. Thus, denial is a defense mechanism that helps us survive. On the other hand, denial harms us when it causes us to ignore problems for which there are solutions or deny feelings and needs that if dealt with would enhance our lives.

Ways We Deny

Darlene Lancer, author of "Codependency for Dummies," shares her post on betrayal.

Darlene Lancer, author of “Conquering Shame and Codependency,” writes about denial, how to recognize it and what to do about it.

Denial is a defense that helps us. It takes many forms. It doesn’t always mean we are unconscious of what’s going on. We may only block out or minimize its impact. For instance, Connie knew her husband shouldn’t call her names, but didn’t realize that this was abuse. She also made excuses for him, telling herself that this was just how he acted when he drank. We might also rationalize drug abuse because it’s only wine or marijuana or only used for sleep or as pain medication. Here are some forms of denial:

• Rationalization
• Minimization
• Self-Deception
• Forgetting
• Lying (asserting the opposite of the truth, but not intentional lying)

Reasons for Denial

There are many reasons we use denial, including avoidance of physical or emotional pain, fear, shame or conflict. It’s the first defense that we learn as a child. I thought it cute when my four-year-old son vehemently denied having eaten any chocolate ice cream, while the evidence was smeared all over his mouth. He had lied out of self-preservation and the fear of being punished. Denial is adaptive when it helps us cope with difficult emotions, such as in the initial stages of grief following the loss of a loved one, particularly if the separation or death is sudden. Denial allows our body-mind to adjust to the shock more gradually.

It’s not adaptive when we deny warning signs of a treatable illness or problem out of fear. Many women delay getting mammograms or biopsies out of fear, even though early intervention leads to greater success in treating cancer. Applying the various degrees, above, we might deny that we have a lump; next rationalize that it’s probably a cyst; third, admit that it could be or actually is cancer, but deny that it could lead to death; or admit all of the above and still be unwilling to get treatment.

Another major reason for denial is inner conflict. Children often repress memories of abuse not only due to their pain, but because they’re dependent on their parents, love them, and are powerless to leave home. Young children idealize their parents. It’s easier to forget, rationalize, or make excuses than accept the unthinkable reality that my mother or father (their entire world) is cruel or crazy. Instead, they blame themselves.

As adults, we deny the truth when it might mean we’d have to take action we don’t want to. We might not look at how much debt we’ve accumulated, because that would require us to lower our spending or standard of living, creating inner conflict. A woman who notices facts from which she could infer that her husband is cheating might rationalize and supply other explanations for the evidence, because confronting the truth forces her to face not only the pain of betrayal, humiliation, and loss, but the possibility of divorce. An addicted parent might look the other way when his child is getting high, because he’d have to do something about his own marijuana habit.

Frequently, partners of addicts or abusers are on the “merry-go-round” of denial. The Addicts and abuser can be loving and even responsible at times and promise to stop their drug use or abuse, but soon it returns breaking trust and promises. Once again apologies and promises are made and believed because the partner loves them, may deny his or her own needs and worth, and is afraid to end the relationship.

Another reason we deny problems is because they’re familiar. We grew up with them and don’t see that something is wrong. So if we were emotionally abused as a child, we wouldn’t consider mistreatment by our spouse to be abuse. If we were molested, we might not notice or protect our child being incested. This is first degree denial. Or, we might acknowledge that our spouse is verbally abusive, but minimize or rationalize. One woman told me that even though her husband was verbally abusive, she knew he loved her. Most victims of abuse experience third degree denial, meaning that they don’t realize the detrimental impact the abuse is having on them – often leading to PTSD long after they’ve left the abuser. If they faced the truth, they’d be more likely to seek help.

Codependents have internalized shame from childhood, as described in my book, Conquering Shame and Codependency. Shame is an extremely painful emotion. Most people, including myself for many years, don’t realize how much shame drives their lives – even if they think their self-esteem is pretty good. Typically, codependents also deny “shame-bonded” needs and feelings due to the fact that those needs and feelings were ignored or shamed. They may not be aware of a shame-bonded feeling, such as fear or anger, they might minimize or rationalize it, or be unaware of how much it’s affecting them. Denial of needs is a major reason codependents remain unhappy in relationships. They deny problems and deny that they’re not getting their needs met. They’re not aware that that’s the case. If they do, they might feel guilty and lack the courage to ask for what they need or know how to get their need met. Learning to identify and express our feelings and needs is a major part of recovery and is essential to wellbeing and enjoying satisfying relationships.

How to Know if You’re in Denial

You might be wondering how to tell if you’re in denial. There are actually signs. I’ve mentioned some, including rationalization, making excuses, forgetting, and minimization. If you’re in a relationship with a drug user or drinker, does your partner’s behavior affect his or her job, family and social obligations, or your relationship? Here are more. Do you:

1. Think about how you wish things would be in your relationship?
2. Wonder, “If only, he (or she) would . . .?”
3. Doubt or dismiss your feelings?
4. Believe repeated broken assurances?
5. Conceal embarrassing aspects of your relationship?
6. Hope things will improve when something happens (e.g., a vacation, moving, or getting married)?
7. Make concessions and placate, hoping it will change someone else?
8. Feel resentful or used by your partner?
9. Spend years waiting for your relationship to improve or someone to change?
10. Walk on egg-shells, worry about your partner’s whereabouts, or dread talking about problems?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read more about denial and codependency in Codependency for Dummies, and join a 12-Step program or seek professional help to recover. Like any illness, codependency and addiction worsen without treatment, but there is hope and people do recover to lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

©Darlene Lancer 2014

CodependencyForDummiesDarlene Lancer, JD, MFT, is the author of Codependency for Dummies, and most recently, Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True YouConquering Shame and CodependencyFollow Darlene on Facebook or visit her website, DarleneLancer.com or call her at 310.458.0016.

Marc Andrade – Today’s Face of Recovery!

It is my great pleasure to introduce Marc Andrade – today’s Face of Recovery, who has graciously agreed to share his story of meth addiction and recovery.

Why share?

There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction and addiction treatment and recovery. Yet those who have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Treatment and Recovery.

Please meet Marc Andrade, Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor and Registered Addiction Specialist – Today’s Face of Addiction Recovery

How did your addiction start?

I began using brain changing substances when I was 9 years old. I began with cigarettes and alcohol and by the age of 12, I graduated to marijuana. By the ages of 15 through 20, I was using LSD, opium, cocaine, and mescaline. At the ages of 21 through 30, I primarily used methamphetamine, caffeine, and nicotine.

What was the turning point for you – what made you want to get sober?

Marc Andrade - Today's Face of Recovery - Sobriety date: November 14, 1987. Congratulations Marc, and thank you for sharing your recovery story!

Marc Andrade – Today’s Face of Recovery – Sobriety date: November 14, 1987. Congratulations Marc, and thank you for sharing your recovery story!

While using crystal meth (smoking, snorting, ingesting), I was selling it to keep in supply. I began to cut the product and because of this, a rival or disgruntled customer spiked some of my personal supply with fiber glass, and I hemorrhaged and needed to be taken to emergency. My wife had also been married previously to an alcoholic for 12 years. I wasn’t willing to lose her or my new family (with a brand new grandson!). I was currently estranged from my family because of situations involving my addiction, (I shot another addict…thank the Goddess he survived), and the addictions of my siblings. Enough was enough. If I didn’t get help I knew I was a dead man. Jails, institutions, or death.

What was your initial treatment?

I checked myself into Campobello on my Birthday in 1987. After 28 days I went into the rooms of NA.

Do you do anything differently, today?

An interesting question. I love more. I notice the littlest things in everyday life. I could exercise more though, and I and my wife were yoga practioners for 10 years (1990-2000), but we quit because of the damaged souls we ran into (drama and drugs). I am empathetic of others feelings, and I have an unquenchable curiosity about the psychology and science of addiction and dysfunction.

What is your life like, now?

In 2009 I found myself unemployed, and on the advice of my sober sister, I began a path that has come to fruition this year. After 46.5 units of an AODS program at SRJC, and 2240 internship hours at R House Inc., I am now a Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor, Registered Addiction Specialist, certified proAct trainer and certified Group Home Administrator. I am also a Lead Recovery Counselor at Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services and still married (28 years!) to that wonderful woman that believed in my potential to be a whole man. Quite a journey.

Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction?  How about anything you would like to share with their family or friends.

Love yourself. You can’t help others unless you help yourself first. Take a chance…on yourself. You can thrive. You are an important part of this world. Try AA or NA. We will welcome you with no judgment…we understand!

Don’t give up. If you relapse, go back to being sober…you remember now what that’s like.

As for what families can do – hold your boundaries, learn about this disease and take care of healing yourself.

What is the best part about your recovery?

I love who I am now and treasure every day and all the people in my life!

Thank you so very much, Marc, for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on 27 years RECOVERY!

If you are interested in learning more about Mark or his work as a Lead Recovery Counselor at Muir Wood Adolescent Treatment and Family Services, please visit him on LinkeIn. Marc also welcomes your emails should you wish to talk with him and can be reached at MAndrade@muirwoodteen.com.

You may also wish to “meet” others sharing their recovery stories with BreakingTheCycles.com by clicking on this link, Faces of Recovery.


Stress and Addiction | Stress and Secondhand Drinking

Readers who follow this blog know how much I write about stress, stress and addiction | stress and secondhand drinking. It’s because of the way stress works in the brain, and it’s that which sets up the brain to adopt unhealthy coping patterns, such as substance misuse, which in turn can cause secondhand drinking, and for the person experiencing SHD, can in turn set up unhealthy coping patterns, which in turn can cause a number of physical and emotional ailments, such as anxiety, depression, migraines, stomach ailments and the like, which in turn can cause a person to misuse substances. Whew! You see the vicious cycle here, which is why I’m writing this post to share some key information on stress, stress and addiction | stress and secondhand drinking, AND to share helpful information on how to better cope with stress and thereby heal the brain of its impacts.

Stress as it Relates to Secondhand Drinking (Codependency)

Stress and Addiction | Stress and Secondhand Drinking - sometimes knowing the connection provides the motivation to really reduce one's stress.

Stress and Addiction | Stress and Secondhand Drinking – sometimes knowing the connection provides the motivation to really reduce one’s stress.

For a brief overview on stress and secondhand drinking, check out this post, “Fight or Flight Stress Response System – Secondhand Drinking Connection.” Additionally, for those new to the concept of secondhand drinking, it’s a term to describe the negative impacts caused by coping with a person’s drinking behaviors. Typically, these impacts are wrapped in the term, “codependency.” Check out, “Reframing Codependency as Secondhand Drinking | Secondhand Drugging,” for the shift in terms.

But the articles I especially want to draw your attention to are those written by Clinical Psychologist and author, Tian Dayton, who has a fantastic blog on Huffington Post.

  • In this article of hers, “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” Dr. Dayton writes, “Adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) can and often do suffer from some features of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that are the direct result of living with the traumatizing effects of addiction.”
  • In this article, “Growing Up With Toxic Stress or Addiction and It’s Long-Term Impact,” Dr. Dayton writes, “When human beings are highly stressed, our muscles experience increased blood flow and we have spurts of adrenaline to enable us to flee for safety or stand and fight. When we can do neither, which is so often the case with children in highly stressful homes, those stress chemicals are left to boil up inside of us and they can cause anything from thinning hair to heart disease.”
  • How Modern Lifestyles Activate Ancient Stress Responses,” is another excellent article in which Dr. Dayton explains, “How does this cycle [fight or flight] get going? Fight/flight was designed to be used in times of danger, not throughout the day. But the body can’t tell the difference between real and fabricated fears, between the stress of a bad phone call, a traffic jam and an elephant charging — it will react to all with the same highly-geared stress response evolved by early man. Our stress response is inextricably tied up with our survival system, which is triggered into action through fear. Fear is what signals the fight/flight/freeze survival defenses to engage. It is one of evolution’s most adaptive emotions. Without it we might head straight into the middle of traffic or pet a mother lioness. We need our fear — it’s nature’s way of shouting at us to keep away from danger. But flipping the stress switch into the “on” position too often can devolve into anxiety, depression, adrenal burnout and compromised immunity. We start to process stress too acutely and have trouble finding balance. This is hard on our body, mind and relationships, to say nothing of our general peace of mind.”
  • For more of Dr. Dayton’s blog posts, click here.

Stress as it Relates to Addiction

For a brief overview of stress and addiction, check out this link to a short video in which Kathleen Brady, M.D., Ph.D., explains the connection, as part of HBO: The Addiction Project’s Understanding Addiction.

Coping with Stress

Stress and Addiction | Stress and Secondhand Drinking – sometimes knowing the connection provides the motivation to really reduce one’s stress.  Here are a few resources that may help:

National Institute on Mental Health “Fact Sheet on Stress

NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) “Relaxation Techniques for Health

MedlinePlus Interactive Health Tutorial from the Patient Education Institute “Managing Stress

And of course, if you do struggle with substance use and/or secondhand drinking, getting help for either is key, and for information and suggestions, please browse through the blog categories and resources on website.

Addicts Are People – 7 Stigmas That Must Be Silenced

I am excited to share today’s guest post by Angela Lambert on a topic that is near and dear to my heart and the hearts of my readers, namely the fact that addicts are people – people – people who have a disease. They are not their disease, just as someone with cancer is not their cancer. Keeping society so stuck in this notion that addicts are somehow morally weak, bereft of dreams and goodness of heart, are the many myths about the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction, which is the purpose of her post – to share 7 myths about addiction and the people who have the disease – 7 myths that must be shattered!

But first, here’s a bit about Angela…

Angela Lambert is a substance abuse counselor at Morningside Recovery with over a decade of experience. After battling addiction herself, she is passionate about delivering the hope of recovery to others. She seeks to create a more wholesome, welcoming environment for addicts and non-addicts alike by confronting stigma with knowledge and compassion. Angela can be reached via email at angelalambertt@gmail.com and followed on Facebook or Twitter.

Addicts Are People – 7 Stigmas That Must Be Silenced! by Angela Lambert

Angela Lambert is absolutely RIGHT! Addicts are People! Here she shares 7 stigmas that must be silenced.

Angela Lambert is absolutely right – addicts are people! Here she shares 7 stigmas that must be silenced.

Addicts are people. Society and the media distort this crucial truth into cruel stigmas that only serve to drive those suffering deeper into their addiction. I seek to shed light on these unfair, misguided myths so that we can approach the reality of addiction with more awareness and compassion. More people will feel safe and welcome to reach out if we can help lift the weight of stigma from their shoulders.

1. Addicts are bums with no jobs, drive or dreams.

I cannot deny that many addicts end up homeless and unemployed, but I can tell you without a shred of doubt that this is not the only lifestyle an addict leads. Addiction plagues people from all walks of life, no matter their age, religion, gender, sexuality, economic level, success or talent. Take a look at some of the most prolific stars of all time. Russel Brand, Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Barrymore are just a few of the actors in recovery. Addiction stole the voice of Kurt Cobain and cut the stories of Earnest Hemingway short. Prince Harry’s struggles prove that even royalty is not immune, nor are influential media figures like Elizabeth Vargas. Addiction does not discriminate, so neither should we.

2. Addicts have no morals.

An addict may resort to drastic, illegal tactics to fuel their addiction. They may betray and use loved ones to obtain a fix. This topic strikes a raw nerve, but there is one factor I am sure of; addiction is a disease. It rewires the brain until it’s convinced that feeding the addiction is needed for survival. Now imagine trying to fight that kind of control with morals.

3. Addiction is voluntary.

The first drink, dose or gamble is a choice, but after that, it can become a helpless plummet into addiction. As I mentioned, addiction is a powerful disease that can force the brain into servitude. Life-sustaining activities such as exercise, eating and sex drench our brains in the pleasurable effects of dopamine. Addiction delivers dopamine in such a quick, overwhelming rush that before long, the brain is numb to any other form of stimuli. In essence, the addiction can become the only “life” the addict can still feel.

4. Addicts are weak; most people could stop at any time.

Once again, addiction is a disease. It cannot simply be willed away. Beyond that, there are mental, environmental, genetic and emotional factors to consider. There is no way to know what an individual has been through and what they are dealing with now. Please keep this quote in mind, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

5. Addiction, like abuse, always runs in the family.

An addict’s family suffers extensive collateral damage. Lisa Frederiksen’s secondhand drinking analysis delves deep into this reality. The children of addicted parents may not receive proper physical care due to impaired judgment. They are denied healthy, nurturing bonds due to the ruthless demands of the addiction. In turn, this tragedy sustains itself when the child (or adult at this point) resorts to the only coping mechanism for pain they have grown to understand. It is a vicious cycle rooted in trauma, neglect and suffering.

Many addicts start here, but not all. A veteran might succumb to alcoholism to alleviate symptoms of undiagnosed PSTD. A man or woman might be pressured into trying heroin by an abusive partner. A motor vehicle accident victim may become dependent on the pain medication prescribed by a doctor. The origins of addiction are varied and hard to pin down, but I can guarantee this: recovery is possible. With more support and less stigma, recovery can uplift any story, no matter how grim the beginning.

6. Recovering addicts still don’t deserve to be trusted or respected.

I once read a story about a mother with over five years clean who worked in the recovery field as a writer. The father of the child proved to be abusive, so she did everything she could to legally prevent him from hurting their son any further. She obtained a restraining order and cut out most contact until a custody hearing. The father announced to the judge that the mother was a heroin addict. This tore everything down. Despite the photo evidence of his abuse and the solid record of the mother’s recovery, success and compassion, the judge chose to stamp her with stigma and rob her of the protection she built for her son.

This is an extreme case, but it does happen. Recovering addicts are striving to build new lives; it is a physical, emotional and mental process that is both strenuous and invigorating. The last thing they need is to be weighed down by harsh judgments. Let their current actions speak for them. In my experience, I’ve witnessed recovering addicts:

  • Reunite with their children and give them positive, nurturing lives.
  • Rekindle healthy, happy relationships with partners.
  • Write extraordinary memoirs about their journey to inspire others.
  • Sponsor other addicts and guide them towards recovery.
  • Rise up the career ladder after homelessness and unemployment.
  • Enjoy wholesome, honest and active lives.

7. Addicts are hopeless and they have no future.

Addiction without a doubt can destroy a life. However, recovering addicts are some of the most vibrant, successful people I know. They have such a thirst for the light of life after spending so much time suffering in darkness. They commit to recovery, gain wisdom from their experiences and relish in success they fight hard to achieve. Many become sponsors, counselors, speakers and writers so that they can guide others on the path of recovery.

These seven stigmas are just a few of many. I hope that by bringing the truth to light and expressing our own stories, we can promote awareness and empathy.