The Stigma of Addiction (Part 1)

This series of articles is based on my interview conducted on Atlantic Avenue surrounding the stigmas of addiction.

sky-people-whitespace-freedomQ. WHAT ARE THE STIGMAS SURROUNDING ADDICTION?

A. Michael Herbert: Society has a lot of stigmas around addiction. Some of those being that drug addicts and alcoholics are bums, thieves, liars, prostitutes, criminals and just generally bad and immoral people. Any thing bad that happens in society people find a way to connect to drugs and alcohol. The problem is that the majority of street people that you see on the streets are there mostly because they are mentally ill.

Not so much because they are addicted. Mental illness plays a big role in why people live on the streets and looking like “bums”. The majority of drug addicts and alcoholics are like you and me within society and in ALL areas of employment and all areas of society. So that’s from banking to entertainment to plumbing to maid service… they are literally everywhere.

As I was speaking to the interviewer a homeless man actually approached me asking for money… You can’t make this stuff up.

Homeless Man: Hi, I’m trying to put together a $1.90 to get a spring roll from the Chinese place. I’m homeless and the Chinese place is just down the block, it’s a $1.90. If you can help me out with that I would appreciate it.

Michael Herbert: Here you go.

Homeless Man: Thank you, God bless you.

Michael Herbert: Yup You got it.

Homeless Man: Do you work in the program?

Michael Herbert: Yes I do.

Homeless Man: Take care man, thank you.

So it was very interesting that a homeless man came over to me just as I was answering that question about stigmas in addiction. You know I couldn’t tell if he was mentally ill but he certainly seemed to be drunk or coming off a drunk. His legs were swollen, eyes were blood shot, but he spoke pretty clearly. So this is a guy who’s probably a chronic alcoholic who needs a break, so to speak, to get himself sober. So he’s going to need a detox and maybe a longer term program.

A 90-day to 6-month program will probably do him good to get him back on track. This example that happened to present it self as we were talking about this issue is exactly why these stigmas still exist. The homeless man smelling of last night’s booze is more frequently seen and heard than the alcoholic who drinks himself to sleep each night quietly in his suburban home. Plus, the recovering addict or alcoholic doesn’t ask for money, so most people in society only interact with the stigma.