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Why You Shouldn’t Feel Ashamed of Getting Help: Fighting the Stigma of Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Published by Daniel Brooks Moore on

If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can be difficult to find the inner strength to get the help you need.

Not only do you have to contend with the physical and mental effects of your addiction, but you also have to navigate the stigma that often accompanies rehabilitation treatments. Even if you want to overcome this hurdle, you might feel guilt and shame about going to rehab and seeking help.

Today, we’re here to alleviate those worries and put them to rest. Finding the resources you need to transform your health is the strongest thing you can do. Here are a few reasons why it’s time to free yourself from those negative perceptions and find the life you deserve.

What Is Stigma?

We use the word often when talking about substance use disorders, but what exactly does it mean to hold a stigma against something? In short, this is the practice of treating someone negatively or discriminating against them based on a distinguishing characteristic they possess.

From mental illnesses to physical disabilities, there are many health statuses that our society continues to routinely stigmatize. Substance abuse is one of them. People who are not addicted to a substance tend to view those who struggle with the condition as less than them and often treat them as such.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this behavior, then you know the level of self-doubt and humiliation it can ignite. Not only can it damage the way you view yourself, but it can also impact the way others see you. It has the power to strain and even break the strongest relationships, which can keep addicted persons in a cycle of substance use in an effort to cope.

Understand the Root of the Issue

When you’re on the receiving end of a stigma, it can feel like a complete “me” problem. You might think that there’s something innately wrong with you for people to judge and criticize your decisions as they do.

However, one of the most important lessons to learn is that stigmas aren’t a reflection of you, but they say a ton about the other person. Often, people will project their own feelings of doubt and insecurity onto others, and they might deem you the ideal target.

For instance, they may worry that if they associate with you, their reputation will be tarnished if you decide to enter into a rehab center. They’re concerned about what others might think of them, and how that might affect their own quality of life.

As you begin to understand this, their opinion will carry a lot less weight. You’ll start to realize the real problem at the root of the comments and remarks and develop the inner strength to rebuke them.

Leverage the Power of Education

It’s important to realize that stigmas aren’t facts. They aren’t rooted in reality or truth. Rather, they’re based strictly on assumptions and generalizations, however harmful those preconceptions may be.

While this can be a frustrating realization, it also opens the door for honest and hard conversations. Through education, you can address personal stigmas and often eliminate them altogether. For instance, if someone questions your decision to enter drug and alcohol rehab, you can point them toward studies that prove its effectiveness.

While efficacy will vary, research shows that rehabilitation programs can have the following positive outcomes:

  • Reduce drug use
  • Improve health
  • Improve social functioning
  • Save money on healthcare costs
  • Save money on criminal justice costs

Of course, treatment outcomes hinge on a variety of different factors, from the addicted person’s specific condition to the appropriateness of their treatment and the quality of their provider interactions. However, numbers and data don’t lie.

Use your unique opportunity to educate those around you on how rehab works and what it entails. Though it might take some time, you may be able to change their perception and reduce their bias.

Shift Negative Thought Patterns

When you’re surrounded by judgment, it’s nearly impossible not to pass it on yourself. In time, you might find yourself repeating some of the phrases you’ve often heard said about drug and alcohol treatment such as “They’ll just relapse later” or “This is a waste of time and money.”

Instead of dwelling on those negative thoughts, try to shift into a more positive mindset. Commend yourself for taking this brave step forward, and list some of the benefits of rehab that you’re looking forward to, such as:

  • The opportunity to address your addiction head-on
  • The chance to make real, meaningful connections with peers and mentors
  • Learning effective, healthy coping mechanisms to help break the chains of addiction

It’s unrealistic to expect that you can turn these thoughts off like a light switch. While that might work for the short term, they’ll just creep back in later.

Instead of expecting a quick fix, understand that this is a slow and methodical process. Those stigmas didn’t attach themselves to you overnight, and you won’t eliminate them that fast, either. However, if you’re willing to look inward and change your own perspective, then you may encourage others to follow suit.

Think Long Term

Yes, stigmas will sting in the short term. It’s never fun to feel unnecessarily picked apart and critiqued. However, you can release yourself from this weight by looking beyond your current struggles and thinking ahead down the road.

Drug and alcohol rehab gives you the invaluable opportunity to break the cycle of addiction in your family. You’ll be in a drug-free environment, supported by people who hold you accountable and help you reach your goals.

The steps involved in these programs are designed to help you address your addiction and work to overcome it. You’re not just doing this for yourself. You’re doing this for everyone who loves you, and the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who love them.

When you put it in these terms, you can see that the naysayers you’re dealing with now don’t hold nearly as much influence as those who currently love and support you. If you can make it past their hurdle, generations will thank you.

Break Free of Addictive Habits

Another one of the top benefits of rehab? You’ll not only learn how to curb your drug use but also why you developed the lifestyle in the first place.

Do you turn to drugs or alcohol to help you cope with everyday stressors? Are you currently using them to navigate through a particularly challenging season? Do you have physical pain that only feels better when you numb your mind and body?

You might not have all of the answers right away, and that’s OK. There are certified and experienced counselors available to help you talk through these questions and dig deep to discover new insights. As you step away from the daily habits of your addiction, your mind becomes clearer and better able to reflect and reason.

There are many different issues that could cause you to abuse a substance. You should never feel guilty about getting to the bottom of your issues and seeking to understand how they snowballed into an addiction. If you don’t take the step and enroll in a rehab program, then you might never have the space to understand how and why your addiction started.

Connect With Others

One of the most important aspects of drug and alcohol treatment is the opportunity to connect with and learn from others who have walked or are currently walking in your shoes.

Many outpatient recovery programs will offer individual and group counseling sessions to help you on your road to recovery. While you might feel some initial guilt or shame as you enter these programs, you’ll soon realize that addiction is more common than you might have realized.

There’s power in solidarity and this step is a crucial one. Take this opportunity to surround yourself with knowledgeable, compassionate people who will lift you up and help you break free from the chains that bind you. From other people in your counseling group to your mentors, therapists, and coaches, you won’t have a shortage of listening ears and open minds.

In some cases, you might need continuous support as you recover from a substance use disorder. A short-term inpatient program gives you access to a safe, structured environment in which you can receive effective, non-emergency care. Along the way, you’ll meet lots of different people whose main goal is to help you succeed and emerge from the program feeling stronger and healthier than ever.

Through their constant guidance, you’ll be able to free yourself from any guilt or shame you felt when you first walked through the doors.

Going to Rehab? Shake Off the Shame and Embrace Your New Reality

In a perfect world, everyone who needed professional treatment for drug and alcohol addiction wouldn’t think twice about going to rehab.

However, we live in a very flawed society that can be anything but understanding, patient, and fair. If you’ve been stung by a stigma, then the tips above can help you rise above the situation and get the help you need.

If you’re struggling with addiction or love someone who is, we can help. We offer substance abuse disorder treatment programs throughout Texas. We’ve delivered these services for more than 55 years, and we’d love to help you find the recovery you deserve.


1 Comment

Daniel Brooks Moore (some content may be aggregated) · October 22, 2023 at 11:08 pm

I remember feeling this way when I made the decision to return to rehab, two weeks after being released the first time and even after the staff was optimistic about my recovery.

It saves your time and the remaining meaningful relationships you have in your life – to go back as soon as possible and get back in treatment, address the issue(s) that caused you to relapse, and then find what you need to move forward in your life. …so that you can stop judging yourself, believe, and have confidence in yourself again – then go out and live the life you were created to live.

Pride comes before destruction.

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