If there was one thing that would help people who struggle with addiction, what do you think that one thing would be?

Change the way a large portion of society views addiction. 

Such as in the following three examples:

I don’t understand why they don’t just quit

Addiction isn’t just a matter of quitting. If that was the case society would have no need for rehabs and detox facilities. The brain can take between two to five years to recover from addiction because many times addiction is due to issues such as:

  • Unresolved psychological issues such as abuse (Which can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological or a combination of these)
  • An undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental health condition.

In other words, addiction is the result of an underlying problem and not the main cause of the problem. And, until those underlying issues are treated and understood, recovery isn’t going to happen.

My advice before you jump to the conclusion that a person is just making excuses to get drunk or high: Try having a little empathy and see their issues through their eyes, instead of through your own assumptions and stereotypes. 

“… it requires at least 2 years, and up to 5 years, of treatment for the brain to function at its optimum. During this healing or re-wiring process, the person’s actions, reactions, and decision-making abilities remain distorted but continue to improve as time goes on.

After 5 years of sobriety, active recovery, and addiction treatment, the brain is usually as good as it will ever be, and if the recovered addicts continue to use the proper tools, they will be able to maintain sobriety for life.” John Volken Academy

Addicts are a waste of space and bad people

I had a friend who was an intelligent, caring individual and an incredible athlete. She was also a recovering addict, and that’s all right because that didn’t take away from the fact she was an amazing accomplished human being

She set aside her own grief to support others, and she was also an accomplished martial artist. Who not only had a big impact on my life but many others, as well.

She’s why I started to write and started doing things for mental health awareness.

Here’s a part of her obituary. I’ve changed names and portions of the article out of respect for her and her family’s privacy.

“An avid lover of reading, music, writing, friends, laughing, her family, and helping others, Jane brightened the paths of many during her time spent in Alberta, Nova Scotia, South Korea, and British Columbia.

Her husband, passed away in a tragic accident and a huge part of her died that day with him.”

She was bar none one of the strongest selfless human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. The only thing she cared about was making sure everyone else was ok. Even on the worst day of her life, she cared more about others than her own needs. 

Remember the next time you judge someone for facing their metaphorical demons. You’re adding to someone’s problems and not being helpful. Which is a character flaw!

Because one of the biggest reasons people don’t seek help is because of how society views addiction. Which causes them to feel emotions such as shame and embarrassment and that can prevent a person from getting the support they need.

Falling off the metaphorical wagon is failure.

“In order to use relapse as a tool instead of beating yourself up for it, you should understand a few things in order to take a more realistic approach to understanding the complexities of what relapse means. First, relapse happens to everyone, in some way, shape or form. It doesn’t mean that you’re weak, it’s more about it happens because you don’t have the tools to cope with specific things” Your Mental Health and You

Relapse happens due to something you lack in your own treatment and other psychological factors.  Not necessarily because of not trying. My best advice is to use relapse as a lesson so you learn better the next time and keep these three things in mind.

  1. Control what you can!
  2. Cope with what you can’t!
  3. Most importantly, concentrate on what counts

Addiction isn’t fun and if you have a person in your life who has an addiction issue here are a few things to keep in mind – because a little understanding and empathy can go a long way for a person. Especially in a world that sees addiction in such a negative light.

  • Be understanding.
  • Don’t mock a person in recovery. Instead, be respectful and try to see it through their eyes – not through your personal biases.
  • Be patient.
  • If they need support, either support them or, if you don’t have the tools to support them, help them get the resources they need.
  • Be mindful of what you say, post, like and follow.
  • Tell them it’s ok to struggle because there’s already enough stigma in the world.
  • Learn about what recovery is and what you assume it is.
  • Remember psychological issues are different for everyone and very complicated.

About the Author

Sandy Pace is a mental health advocate from Calgary, Alberta and also the author of Your Mental Health and You (Austin Macauley USA in NYC).