Double Standard Stigma Around Addiction

Double Standard Stigma Around Addiction

MaryBeth Cichocki’s son, Matt, died of a drug overdose. She is determined to do whatever she can to help another child, another parent, another family, which includes working to extend insurance coverage for 90 days in residential treatment/rehab (vs the current 28 days) and to promote and support efforts to regulate sober living homes in Florida. She also writes a blog, MothersHeartbreak.com, to help others whose child has a drug use problem and welcomes your emails, mmassey4@verizon.net, and phone calls, 302-561-4619.

And now for MaryBeth’s guest post…

Double Standard Stigma by MaryBeth Cichocki

MaryBeth Chichocki is determined to make a difference having lost her son, Matt, to a drug overdose.

MaryBeth Cichocki, whose son, Matt, died of a drug overdose, is determined to make a difference.

As the mother of an addict who overdosed, I’m always saddened by some people’s reaction when I tell my son’s story. Well, he was an addict they say. He did this to himself they say, giving me the feeling that in their twisted minds it’s ok that he died. Almost like he deserved it and why am I so surprised? People who use drugs usually die if they don’t get help and quit.   Like it’s no big deal when just your average addict dies. The stigma of what an addict is resonates through many conversations I’ve had since my son died.

People look at me like oh well sorry about your luck. Like my son was a useless, unproductive, disposable human being. Not the thoughtful, funny man that he truly was who just happened to have a horrible disease.

My question is why is this stigma mostly associated with addicts from certain socioeconomic classes. Why did no one point the finger at Michael Jackson, he had an addiction problem. There was no one in the media saying he deserved his fate. Everyone went into immediate mourning over a beautiful life cut too short. Everyone blamed his doctor and the lawmakers went for an immediate arrest. The music world did amazing tributes to his talent and the world watched as his grieving children said a heart breaking good bye to their loving father. Please don’t get me wrong. I loved his music and talent and mourned for his family. My son was heavy into his addiction when Michael died and I used his death to scare my son into rehab.

Its the same thing for all Hollywood. Heath Ledger died in his apartment from the same deadly combo of drugs that my son used. Once again everyone expressed sadness and shock at another talented life cut too short. Never stating that he had enough money to get help anywhere in the world, yet this disease was stronger than his will to fight. Never heard the addict word. Just an unfortunate accident.

It’s the same for Whitney, Cory and Philip and all the other rich and famous people who die exactly the way our children have died. Drug Overdoses. Yet there are no negative statements or publicity. Public reaction is one of shock, pity and sadness. No one says oh well they were addicts they did it to themselves. No one shuns the families afraid to be associated with the leftovers of the addict. These grieving families are treated with respect and kindness. No talking behind closed doors. In the world of rich and famous it’s just an unfortunate tragedy.

How can a persons wealth and standing in this world make such a difference in how they are judged.   An addict is an addict whether you live in Malibu, The Hampton’s or a middle class neighborhood in any state in this country. This stigma should not be custom tailored for one group of people and not for another.

I’ve watched both Johnny Depp and Joaquin Phoenix show up for interviews on late night tv completely stoned. Did anyone make then feel dirty or disposable. Nope, the audience and the show’s host just thought it was the funniest thing ever. I watched in anger thinking what a pitiful society we have become to think being publicly drunk or stoned is acceptable depending on who you are. If anyone in the audience was displaying the behavior that was being displayed on stage I’d bet security would be called and then the police. Since when does who you are dictate what acceptable behavior is.

My hope is that one day society will stop accepting overdose deaths as a tragedy for some and a self inflicted choice for others. No one deserves to die from an overdose. Examples need to be set that no matter who you are there is nothing funny about addiction. The double standard must stop and every addict should be perceived as someone with a chronic sometimes fatal disease.

Until society changes its perception of addiction and realizes that it is a disease that knows no boundaries, beautiful people will continue to die. Rich and famous or poor and unknown it really doesn’t matter. Like I said, an addict is an addict. All dying of the same demons.

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You may also want to read MaryBeth’s two previous guest posts for BreakingTheCycles.com: A Mother’s Heartbreak and The Stigma of Addiction: a Mother’s Point of View.

4 Responses to Double Standard Stigma Around Addiction

  1. Diane Mintz says:

    I am so sorry about your son MaryBeth. There is a double standard and it isn’t right.
    Our society also loves to watch celebrities when their lives become train wrecks. They laugh.
    Would we do that to someone with cancer? Most folks are just ignorant and haven’t felt the pain this disease inflicts on everyone. Hugs to you and your family.

  2. My heart goes out to you MaryBeth. There is really double heartbreak with these situations. First you lose your son, then you are exposed to the judgement and stigma around how he died. There is so much more that needs to be done to help our communities at large understand what addiction is and how it can take away a person’s ability to decide and control their use.

    So many of our kids started out experimenting with drugs or alcohol. There are some who cross that line and lose their power to monitor themselves. Compassion and empathy is needed and definitely more understanding and education.

    Thank you so much for reaching out and helping other families after your devastating loss.

  3. Dear Brave lady-my heart breaks for you-I admire your courage very much. I have an article coming up in the Fall issue-I am also very much focused on riding the stigma. I have been to 4 of my sponsees funerals-and I know how peoples ignorant comments can hurt. People are afraid of what they dont understand. I lost a 3 month old many years ago-this is a pain and heartbreak that only those of us have experienced can understand. When I went to my 1st treatment center in 1984 (one of many) there were 12 women in there and 7 had lost a child. We somehow shared this unspeakable pain-and I have never connected with human being like that in my life. I continue to reach out, write, blog,post to carry the message. Thank you for all you are doing. Prayers up sweet lady

  4. MaryBeth,

    What happened to your son is gut wrenching, and I am so very sorry for your bereavement. Social tides are changing and evolving, and soon the public will merit addiction for the disease it truly is. I’m sorry that time did not come when you truly needed it most. Your son sounds as if his spirit was, and still is, as beautiful as yours. He was taken from us far, far too soon.

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