Break the Stigma

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Drug addiction has not only taken hold of, but it’s taken over people in our community in my lil corner of the world, just like many other communities in other lil corners all over the world. It’s killing our youth and adults at unprecedented rates. Statistical numbers vary, but on average, between 120 – 150 addicts die each day because of addiction. To put that into perspective, as you are reading this, at least two addicts are dying.

In our community, to help battle this epidemic we’ve had increased law enforcement activity and a couple of town hall type meetings. Nothing much has really come of it except for a very overcrowded jail. As much as many of these people might deserve jail time, it doesn’t help that addict to seek out recovery. In fact, it actually does the opposite. It not only fans the flames of guilt and self loathing but drugs can still be obtained in jail no matter how hard it is to do it.

Consequently, any hope that was built up by these community efforts was squashed by the next addict who died as a result of our community’s inaction. Other reasons that add to the problem are the lack of resources, and the lack of willingness to get and stay clean. Perhaps the biggest reason is the stigma of being an addict. We are already ashamed and embarrassed by our addiction and the monsters we become. We hide in the shadows while being called some ugly names.

In recent months, a young lady in our community has stepped up to the plate. As a recovering addict herself, she has been working very hard to bring awareness to the effects of drug addiction in our community and the stigma attached to it. Recently she, with the help of others, put together a community event to do just that and more. She brought together vendors, musicians, speakers and organizations to raise this awareness and to show other addicts, family, loved ones and our community that addicts are not bad people. We are sick people who need help. Her goal was to let others know that there is hope.

When I found out about this event thru social media, I decided to get a hold of this young lady and asked if I could bring my friends and some resources with me. I also asked if she needed another speaker and I offered to share my experience, strength and hope despite my trepidation of public speaking. She was excited to have me come with my friends, our resources…and for me to speak.

My target audience was to loved ones and others in the community who may or may not be sympathetic to addicts. I’ve had a fear of public speaking since my school days when I had to give a book report to my classmates. At this event, I was going to be speaking to total strangers and people who know me but don’t know I’m an addict. Normally, if I were to speak to another group of addicts, I would just shoot from the hip, however, wanted my message to be crystal clear to everyone there. Because of this fear and health problems that often affect my brain and mouth, I wrote what I wanted to say on my iPad.

In the days leading up to the event, I’d read some posts on social media about stigmatized addicts that I wanted to incorporate into what I’d be saying. I wanted to speak briefly yet clearly to each type of person who was expected to be there. Besides sharing my story, hope and insight to addicts and loved ones, I spoke to people who criticize and stigmatize us. The following is part of what I said the other day

“…I’d like to speak to those who criticize and condemn addicts. How would you feel if someone says to you, ‘You’re so fat, you’re so stupid, you’re so ugly, you’re dressed so funny that you don’t deserve to live.’? Doesn’t feel so good does it?

“…put yourself in the shoes of an addict or their loved ones for just a moment. Imagine how it feels when they hear stuff like, ‘Why can’t you just stop using? It’s a choice not a disease. Once a junkie, always a junkie. You’re a dirty, rotten, low life, piece of shit, dumb ass, brain dead, crackhead whore. Addicts are dirty homeless people. Addicts are scum of the earth, they should all just die’

“When you say or think these things what you forget is that an addict is someone to somebody.

“When I was little, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. Something changed shortly after I graduated. I think I can speak for all addicts when I say this.

  • Never once did I say that I wanted to become an addict.
  • Never once did I say I wanted to pop pills, smoke dope, inject poison into my veins, or drink poison.
  • I wanted to be somebody when I grew up. Not some junky, crackhead, loser who was mentally, emotionally and spiritually broke.
  • Never once did I say I wanted to be lonely, homeless or the outcast of society for the rest of my life.

“It’s not like there was a representative from Addiction University at our college fair in high school. Even at the job fair I don’t recall seeing anyone from Druggie Incorporated looking to hire me.

“I am somebody’s child, somebody’s sibling, somebody’s parent/grandparent, somebody’s spouse, somebody’s significant other. I am your co worker, your neighbor, your family member, your friend. I am that celebrity that you idolize. I am your next door neighbor. I am the stranger you meet on the street, I am somebody’s…someone, I am…me. I am a recovering addict now.

I chose the quote today because even tho I’ve been in recovery for some time now, I’ve sat by silently as people in my community have died from this disease. Tho I’ve been more vocal in recent months on social media, I’ve forgotten what I’ve said to you, my readers, when it comes to making changes in the world. I need to be the change I want to see in the world. I need to do more than I currently do in my own backyard, my community.

In the time I’ve been recovery, I’ve known many of the addicts who’ve died but I wasn’t close to them. There may be others I don’t know about, but this year alone, I’ve lost someone I considered a brother in April and this last month I’ve lost someone I considered a sister. My heart still breaks over the fact these 2 addicts were young. It also breaks knowing that other brothers and sisters are out there.

It also breaks my heart that we are still viewed as bad people.

Thought for the day: i simply repeat, we are sick people who need help.

***Please be sure to read more of my posts


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About Bella’s Thoughts. This is a project that I began in my mind a number of years ago when I began reading some daily meditations. I had my own thoughts on many occasions and attempted to journal many times without success. It began to take shape when I took on another project for a Spiritual Advisor and dear friend who past away. To learn more about me read my very first blog post. For more daily reflections go to...

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