Let's Challenge Stigma: Addiction is not a Choice


Addiction is an equal opportunity illness. It doesn't care who you are or how much money you make. 

Some people will be fortunate enough to never have to live through the reality of being an addict or know what it feels like to love an alcoholic, but that's a small number. Addiction is everywhere. The simple fact is that addiction is a disease that affects 1 in 5 Canadians. 

 

 

The simple fact is that addiction is a disease that affects 1 in 5 Canadians


 

When people take that first drink of alcohol as a curious teen, or smoke a joint for the first time, they don't imagine that they might be headed towards a painful path of addiction. Addiction is not a choice. People with substance use disorder are not choosing despair. They do not want to suffer. They want to be happy just like everyone else. They just don't see any other option.

Addiction is progressive, and without treatment, the disease only worsens. 

However, even when someone wants to seek treatment, there is often a damaging barrier in the way: stigma.

Many people have preconceived ideas of what addicts look like and how they live. They judge their values, their character, and even their intelligence. Addiction is a chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal brain disorder, yet people still judge those who suffer from addiction on moral grounds.

 

The stigma surrounding addiction prevents people from seeking help, keeps them sick, and leads them to a fatal end. 


 

The stigma surrounding addiction prevents people from seeking help, keeps them sick, and leads them towards a fatal end. Since 1956, we've known that alcoholism is a treatable disease as deemed by the American Medical Association, yet lives are still being lost today because of the social stigmas that exist. 

Now more than ever, people need to know that recovery is possible. Millions of people have accessed treatment programs and have been able to sustain recovery. There are so many recovery tools available from group recovery meetings to out-patient approaches. 

So, how can we make sure more people are aware of their treatment options? 

Share your stories. Open up. Tell people what tools and resources have worked for you. Stigma becomes less of a barrier when we challenge it with first-hand experiences. Widespread awareness of the solutions to addiction could drastically improve access to them. 

 

Addiction is loud, but let's make recovery even louder. 


 

Addiction is loud, but let's make recovery even louder. In order for the world at large to have hope that recovery is possible, they have to see it. At Westover, we've definitely seen it. For more than 30 years, we've walked with thousands of people through their recovery journeys. Every recovery story that is told provides another glimmer of hope that could save someone's life. 

This is an abridged article based on the essay written by Westover counsellor Laird Bush, C.C.A.C. in the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management News

MORE:

Learn about Westover's treatment programs

Watch alumni testimonial videos

Share your recovery story