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Dealing with Misunderstanding

As we’re coping with our addictions and mental health issues, one of our greatest challenges can be in dealing with people who don’t understand us or our illnesses. Both addiction and mental illness are common and exist within every community, ethnic group, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and socioeconomic grouping. In other words, they are universal. They are a prevalent part of human nature. Still, there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding both addiction and mental illness. We’re up against stereotypes and stigmas of all kinds, prejudice, discrimination and hatred. People assume we’re bad people. They look at us and see criminals. Some people assume that we’re using our illnesses as an excuse for shameful behavior. When we try to get them to understand us and our difficulties, they see our attempts as justifications for things we ought to be ashamed of. Others assume we’ll never have the willpower or strength to get better and that we’ll always be bringing ourselves down, along with the people in our lives. People give up on us, including our loved ones. We feel distanced, separated, alienated and estranged from the people in our lives, family members and friends, partners, co-workers, neighbors and community members. This can be a colossally lonely place for us to be. The separation and the disconnection we feel can often be attributed to the misunderstanding that persists around addiction.

There are some key ways in which we can deal with misunderstanding in our personal lives, and in a broader sense, within our culture. We can confront the stereotypes surrounding addiction and present our own examples of how we defy those stereotypes. We can show that we are living proof that not all addicts are bad people, and that many of us can and do recover. We can stand up to individuals, corporations and organizations that discriminate against recovering addicts. Perhaps most importantly, we can share our stories and become the new faces of addiction. We can be a voice that is empowered, that demands to be heard. In this way, we force people to start to unpack some of the mistruths, misinformation and misunderstandings they’re holding onto about addicts and addiction. We can push them outside their comfort zone of prejudice, ignorance and blind assumptions. We can help people to take a closer look at how unfair it is to stigmatize addiction. And we can find our own unique ways of dealing with the misunderstanding we’re confronted with in our everyday lives as recovering addicts.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.