Going to rehab is a big adjustment to make in your life, made even more complicated when you have to deal with the stigma associated with treatment and (former) substance abuse. The stigma is there when you make the decision to go, while you’re there and even after when you have to tell people you spent time in rehab. But there are ways to handle the negative perceptions of rehab and not let it bother you when people ask questions, gawk or make comments about your life-altering decision to overcome addiction.
The first thing you always want to remember is why you initially chose to go to rehab. You likely made the choice because you realized your addiction and substance abuse problem was affecting you, your family and loved ones. Going to rehab was the right decision—the brave decision. You shouldn’t feel bad about that, regardless of the stigma that follows. Instead, feel proud.
Stigma is created is when people are ashamed of their addiction and afraid of rehab and the recovery process. If you are quiet about your addiction, open up and talk about it. Often stigma is created and attached to an “out-group” to make the rest of society feel better, or more normal. But when you start talking about your treatment, you will soon see that many people have experienced substance abuse problems in their own lives or with their loved ones.
Let go of your fears and share your past with your family; get them talking about it, too. This open conversation will help reduce the stigma and gain you a support group that will help you heal during the recovery process.
Stigma against addicts also comes from the belief that these people are consciously making bad choices. What the critics don’t consider are the changes chemicals in drugs cause in the brain that make a person more impulsive.
Beyond combatting stigma by talking about drug addiction and rehab, you can change the way you talk about it by ridding it of shaming, derogatory terms linked to substance abuse, mental health and recovery.
By tackling the stigma associated with rehab in these ways, you can look forward to receiving support on the path the recovery.
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