As an addictions therapist, I am frequently confronted with having to help my patients to navigate the judgment they face due to being labeled “addict.” My response usually involves educating the family members, significant others, or friends of the patient regarding the disease of addiction. It seems as if society has condemned those suffering from a substance use disorder as morally defective simply because they have become addicted. This continues to puzzle me. In this day and age of having instant access to information at our fingertips through the internet, it makes no sense that so many people have completely incorrect information about addiction.
The judgment faced by those suffering from a substance use disorder is one of the most frequently reported reasons that people wait to seek treatment. It perpetuates the stigma attached to addiction, and putting off treatment and continuing to use illicit substances can prove deadly. It’s a nasty game of Russian Roulette that people play when using drugs. Tolerance to the drug of choice builds, meaning the person must take more to get the same effect. So he/she continues to use more, and his/her body continues to tell him/her that he/she is not well without the substance. So the use continues.
It is important to note that just because tolerance goes up, does not mean that the amount that is his/her fatal dosage goes up. It does not. Every addict says, just before overdosing, “I know how much my body can handle.” That is false; he/she is wrong. Sometimes, DEAD wrong.
So, how can we prevent the knee-jerk reaction of judgment regarding those suffering from a substance use disorder? My first answer is, when encountering judgmental fu… um, sorry …folks…EDUCATE ‘EM! The second answer is to remember that it is only by the grace of God Himself that you are not sporting those shoes. (Each and every human being is wired for addiction. If something feels good, we want it, and we want it as often as we can get it.) I believe that God made us all different, with different talents and different issues, so that we would learn to help each other, not so we would use a person’s weaknesses to build our own sense of self-worth by inviting “better-than” thinking, or by using those weaknesses as a weapon.
God is the only one equipped to judge anyone. Let’s face it, we human beings are just not equipped. In fact, we suck at it. So maybe we can start a movement involving dumping the bullsh…pucky attitudes and hangups, and agree to act out of love for the human race, and get ourselves back on a path toward progress and intellectual and emotional evolution. It doesn’t matter whether we agree on matters of politics, faith, morals, or whatever. We don’t HAVE to agree in order to get along, or in order to still honor and respect each other as also running in the same (and hard-as-hell sometimes) human race. I think if people would take a moment to truly think about it, they would realize that life would be so much easier if we start helping each other and stop trying to tear each other down. As the old adage states, “A joy shared is doubled; a burden shared is halved.” This aptly illustrates what being there for one another is all about.