"Once an addict, always an addict."
Stigma is one of the most difficult aspects of addiction because it can make it harder for individuals to deal with their problems and get the help they need. Some of us have heard the tired, old saying, "once an addict, always an addict," but what does that really mean? And how does that affect those trying to recover from the pain of their past? The saying insinuates that there is some type of moral deficiency permanently attached to those suffering from addiction.
When people think of an addict, they may think of someone who is dishonest, deceitful, manipulative, dirty, angry, vengeful, and so on. And some of those things may have been true at one point! However, it would be a harmful assumption to allow those traits of the past to follow an individual throughout their entire life. The deeply rooted nature of the stigma against addicts persists despite the scientific evidence that addiction is a treatable disease, even when we know people in our families or communities living wonderful, fulfilled lives in long-term recovery.
So, how does one overcome this heavy burden? It is so easy to internalize the guilt that can come from being stigmatized and that can quickly transform into shame. To counteract this downward spiral, stop telling yourself, "this is my fault," or "there's nothing I can do about it," because that is not true! The first step to relinquishing yourself from the binds of stigma is to seek recovery! Once someone stops feeding their addiction, they distance themselves from the ugly nature of their disease. This opens the door to a new way of life. As time passes, the once suffering addict strays further and further from what once enslaved them.