We Are Not The Stigma

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1. a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
“the stigma of mental disorder”
synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, (bad) reputation

This one has been bouncing around inside for a few days. Occasionally, I will read an article or hear a news story and something will shift internally, festering like an open wound until I can no longer ignore it. That happened this week. The article I read, while important, is not significant here. The lesson is.
Criminal. Liar. Failure. Thief. Loser. Wrong. Bad. Immoral. Cheater. Stupid. Selfish. Corrupt. Depraved. Hopeless. Lost.
Every single word I just listed has been hammered into my head by a society that does not understand the disease of addiction. We are viewed simply as our disease. We are placed into a garbage bin of miserable individuals who deserve nothing. We are looked at as a disgrace to humanity. Our families walk away, our friends disappear and we are left to struggle, often alone, looking for a new way out.
Please, please don’t misunderstand. Our families and friends walk away out of sheer desperation. They, too, need boundaries. They have to protect themselves from the terror and horror that we bestow upon them. I never expected my family to stand by my side and watch me die. It was almost a relief when they finally stopped calling, stopped accepting my calls and just let go.
Additionally, it is important to note that not everyone in society views addicts and alcoholics as I express here. It’s a general statement. I know as well as you do that every person in the world is going to react differently than the next guy when seeing an addict or alcoholic in active addiction. There are people who are going to judge no matter what, and there are people who will never judge… Moving on.
I have a feeling this entry may incite interesting feedback. That is kind of the point… to get us thinking and talking. I am no better and no worse than anyone else, yet when we are thrown into society we are often classified as one thing or another. The good kids on the left, the bad ones to the right. Scholars here, athletes there. Boys up front. Girls in back. Oh you’re an addict? You just move along, back there… into that dark corner. Some days I just want to scream at the world. We have to be able to step out from behind the shadows and speak the truth about addiction. My defining characteristics are not if I am an addict or not. It’s not the color of my hair, skin or eyes. It’s not the size of my waistline or bust. It’s not my accomplishments, or lack there of, in school or work. IT’S MY SPIRIT. MY SOUL.
When are we going to stop cataloging people? Nobody deserves to be shunned, talked badly about or simply ignored because of his or her past… or present for that matter. We are all human beings. We are all fighting to survive in a world that is meant to kill us. This article, the one that sparked this fire inside… talked about a woman who was shot by law enforcement while intoxicated. That really is all that needed to be said. The reporter, however, found it necessary to explain that she had a “long criminal history with both felony and misdemeanor charges”. Really, dude? What does that have to do with anything? How about we remove that sentence and instead link up a way to reach out for help? I understand that my personal emotion regarding the situation may allow me to be slightly overly sensitive to this. Even so, it still leaves to question, why must we throw a stigma at everyone? Let’s move on. Let’s offer help. Let’s become a better society and come together to find a solution.

Kylee Christoffels

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