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Students protesting police brutality by writing protesting phrases on our campus buildings
Students protesting police brutality by writing protesting phrases on our campus buildings
Original photo by Jackie Tucker
Life > Experiences

Substance Abuse: Overcoming Stigma

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at IUP chapter.

Facing my senior year of college, my nursing classes this semester are focused on psychiatric and mental health. This is a normal rotation for most nursing schools and an important one at that. But, here at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), we are mainly discussing substance abuse disorders. For clinicals, we visit a local voluntary rehab facility. Before my first day, I had no idea what to expect.

Truthfully, I had my own assumptions and stereotypes in mind. I anticipated hostile and even aggressive behavior. However, I was pleasantly surprised and proven wrong. The group of residents we met was more than hospitable, open, and friendly. The atmosphere showed a strong community of support and trust. The residents were happy to have us students and were truly excited to share their day with us.

The last thing I would have pictured happening on my first clinical day was laughing as much as I did. In the support groups, the residents were upfront about their thoughts and feelings with each other. Everyone was cracking jokes about each other and themselves- it was a very positive environment.

I wanted to write this article to create some awareness about substance abuse disorder. I carried a lot of judgments about people in the midst of addiction and recovery. It’s incredibly important for healthcare workers to receive this type of education and interactive training; especially in an area with such a high prevalence of drug use. Although I was initially nervous to attend, now I’m grateful that IUP’s nursing program has this integrated into the course.

A person is so much more than their addiction. Although it can take hold of their life and cause damage, recovery and change are possible. I saw firsthand people who had completely turned their lives around for the better after years of struggling with their addiction. The 12-step program makes a difference in people’s lives and helps them to see their own faults. The first step is admitting and surrendering to your addiction- you must be ready for the health.

Within the support groups, I listened to residents share perspectives and self-assessments. The amount of depth in their thoughts and self-awareness was amazing. Recovery requires deep reflection, learning to cope emotionally, building character, and releasing control. The testimonies I heard made me want to be a better person. On the recovery journey, you learn to accept things you can’t control and take responsibility for your own actions. Everyone seemed to make lifelong friends as well. To paraphrase one member, you learn that the friends you make in recovery are here for you because they care about you, not what you can offer them. The comradery was true, deep, and meaningful. As much as they want to stay clean themselves, they want it just as much for their friends.

Addiction is a disease. It is a lifelong struggle, just like a physical or chronic disability/disease. It’s easy to make assumptions and judgments, especially when you haven’t seen things firsthand.

Here are some resources for anyone struggling with addiction of all kinds:

Madison is a nursing major with a drive to make a positive impact on others. As head CC, Madison collaborates with her co-CC to make the IUP chapter fun, welcoming, and creative! Her Campus has opened the door for opportunity and friendship for Madison that she hopes to share with others.