Recovering the Meaning of September

Although addiction rates have skyrocketed in recent years, particularly rates associated with opioid abuse, most people are still uncomfortable talking about this issue, and society generally tries to sweep this widespread social issue under the rug.

"I will tell you, probably everybody knows someone in their life or comes across someone in their life who has had, or does have, an addiction problem. Even if you don’t know what to say, just letting that person know that you are there, and you are not judging them for what they’re doing, or just being someone they can talk to. Even if you feel you’re not saying the right things, just be there for somebody, and if they’re open to it, help them find someplace to get help." (Stories of Addiction)

These are the words of one of the recent participants of “Stories of Addiction”, which perfectly highlight the general attitude and stigma surrounding those who struggle with substance abuse. “Stories of Addiction” is a social media platform created in the spring of 2018 by a University of Utah Honors Praxis lab in order to combat the stigma surrounding addiction by humanizing those who have been effected.

While substance abuse is something that many people are forced to deal with on a daily basis, it is often something that is only discussed in whispers and behind closed doors. It’s time for this to change. September is Recovery Month, a time to celebrate those who are currently in recovery, as well as acknowledge the difficult nature of the process.

Although recovery is often looked upon as an issue of moral fortitude, most people do not realize how difficult it can be for someone suffering from an addiction to get “clean”. Getting “clean” is not as simple as just choosing to no longer take illicit drugs, it is a highly individualized, multi-dimensional process that can require a unique blend of physical and mental strategies. Beyond the complex nature of recovery, most people do not understand how, much like recovery from any other illness, it often involves setbacks. Society is not forgiving of relapses in the same way they are of the re-occurrences of other illnesses; instead of being viewed as a temporary setback, relapses are viewed as moral failings on the part of the patient. Society, along with much of the medical community, views relapses as a form of moral failing or a lack of trying and gives up on patients. This view costs lives, as most overdose deaths result after a period of abstinence. People who relapse are often too ashamed to tell their doctors or family and thus die alone from decreased tolerance.

Overdose deaths, though not entirely preventable, can definitely be decreased through greater understanding and tolerance of the nature of addiction. Greater understanding can only be gained through increased conversation and visibility of these uncomfortable topics. Although September is almost over, please take some time to think about addiction and recovery and find compassion rather than disdain for individuals who struggle with substance abuse. In reality, every month should be recovery month!

"People are scared to hear it, or even see it; people are, ‘Uhh… that makes me uncomfortable’, well there’s a reason why it makes you uncomfortable, right? Not that you’re addicted, but maybe you know someone that is. You know that this is a problem and we need to get it out there." (Stories of Addiction)

If you would like to learn more about “Stories of Addiction”, please look us up on Facebook (Stories of Addiction), Instagram (@storiesofaddiction), or email us to share your thoughts ([email protected]).

Image Sources: Photos taken from the Stories of Addiction Facebook