The Stigma of Addiction (Part 3)

landing-stage-sea-sky-nightQ. WHY DO STIGMAS AROUND ADDICTION EXIST?

A.​Well when it comes to men, you see, men have been socialized to be able to handle their drinking and to be able to handle their problems. So when a man can’t handle his problems he is viewed as weak. So alcoholics are viewed as weak people who can’t get it together and male alcoholics are viewed as not really men.

Women are supposed to be good and nice and kind and if a woman drinks too much that means she is not a decent women. Drugs and alcohol for women mean something different but it is still negative. So really these two stigmas have their origins since the beginning. Men do not always know how to be in control or to be strong. Women are not always kind and decent.

Society has labeled them this way and drugs and alcohol simply amplify the negative aspects that society has already bought into. When it comes to bum (as they used to be called-stigma), I hate to break it to you but, all bums are not alcoholic and all alcoholics are not bums. These stigmas have been created by a few and believed by the masses. Why? I’m not entirely sure. In part maybe it is for comfort.

A child may see his father drunk each night on the couch but as long as he is in the home and the lights still work and the bills are getting paid, well, then he must not be an alcoholic. Mom gets up each morning and makes us breakfast so she must not be an alcoholic, even though as soon as we walk out the door she heads for the pills. So part of it is maybe to feel safe.

Another part may be that the squeaky wheel gets the attention. Meaning that the bum on the street who asks everyone who passes for money, who smells like alcohol and who is seen outside the liquor store is much more visible than the 16 year old alcoholic who drinks by himself wasted every night after soccer practice alone in his room.

We do not associate alcoholism with the 16 year old, but he is no less an alcoholic as the bum. Another major player in the perpetuation of the negative stigmas around addiction is the media. Every news outlet and media organization in the world sprints towards the story of the famous person who died of an overdose and they are parked outside the rehab waiting for the next famous addict check into.

Never though do these organizations do a story on the 1 year , 5  or 30 year anniversary of someone recovery. So the average news-watching individual knows nothing but the stigma. By the way I used the word bum, purposely and not to offend anyone. Also if I call someone a functional alcoholic goes that make it better?