The million-dollar question. It is echoed throughout friends and families dealing with the disease of addiction, who find the answer rather quickly and through no choice of their own. The same question is asked by the segment of the population that has never dealt with addiction. They have no concept of what addiction truly is; their impressions and knowledge are all shaped by well-publicized negative stigmas.
When my family first found out that I was an addict, there were numerous family members that could not fathom why I could not just stop. If they believed that I had the power to stop this “nonsense,” then they also believed that I was choosing to blatantly disregard their wishes that I end the drug use, that I chose drugs over my son, and that I chose to hurt my family, all for the sake of “partying.”
I am writing this post for those of you who once (or still) believe that addiction is an excuse for a lack of will. You may wonder why I care what you think, why any addict would care what you think. We care because of this impact this thinking has on the world. Allow me to explain. One of the hardest battles we face as addicts are the stigmas that are created by uneducated, closed-minded people.
These stigmas play a role in keeping us sick because many of us will start to question and believe them ourselves.
“All addicts are losers.”
“Using drugs is a choice, not a disease.”
“Drug addicts that leave their kids behind are just bad parents!”
These are just a few of the many stigmas and slanders that an addict — and their families — hear on a regular basis. They are born out of ignorance about the disease of addiction, based on misconceptions or stereotypes created out of fear of something not well understood.
I believed each of the stigmas listed above at one point or another. I thought if so many people said something, then it must be true. I could not trust my addled brain to make sense of what was true or not true. I just knew I felt like a loser, was very confused on whether I chose this lifestyle or not, and I felt like the worst mother, if not human being, on earth. It was not hard to convince me of any of these things because I was already broken down, sick, confused, overwhelmed, and just so damn tired.
So why don’t we just quit??? We don’t just quit because we have a disease that is incurable, progressive and, if untreated, fatal. We don’t just quit because our brain no longer has the same reasoning function and impulse control as the non-addicted brain. We don’t just quit because our disease requires treatment and life-long maintenance in order to achieve recovery. We don’t just quit because we are told we are never going to amount to anything by the officer that arrested us after our latest crime we committed for drug money. We don’t just quit because we are thrown into jail cells instead of treatment centers. We don’t just quit because we walk out of jail feeling lower than we walked in.
We need everyone to get educated on the disease of addiction, especially those who have never been personally affected. At some point in time, everyone is going to know an addict. We need you to give us kindness and support instead of recoiling when you accidently brush against us. We are not contagious and we do not bite. We need you to fight for those of us who cannot fight for ourselves yet, because if more treatments were available, and calling 911 for an overdose wasn’t a crime, more of us would make it home! We need you to realize we cannot JUST QUIT! Please believe that if we could, we would in a heartbeat. Please know that no matter what we are saying, no matter what we are portraying, we are in a dark, lonely, miserable place. We would give ANYTHING to leave and never look back. But we need YOU!