“Once an Addict, Always an Addict”
Stigma is one of the most difficult aspects of addiction because it can make it harder for individuals to get the help they need. Some of us have heard the old saying, “once an addict, always an addict,” but what does that really mean? And how does the saying affect those trying to recover from the pain of their past? Does the phrase simply mean that relapse is possible, as with, for example, cancer? Or is the implication that there is some type of moral deficiency permanently attached to those suffering from addiction?
When people think of addiction, they may imagine someone who is dishonest, deceitful, manipulative, dirty, angry, vengeful, and so on. And some addicts may have been those things at one point! However, the traits of active addiction don’t follow an individual throughout their entire life. Scientific evidence tells us that addiction is a treatable disease. Many of us even know people in our families or communities living wonderful, fulfilled lives in long-term recovery. And yet the deeply-rooted stigma against addicts persists.
So, how does a person living with addiction overcome this heavy burden? It is so easy to internalize the guilt and shame of being stigmatized, and if these feelings prevent the person from seeking treatment, the addiction—and the stigma that goes with it—will only get worse
If you are an addict, “this is my fault,” or “there’s nothing I can do about it,” because neither is true! You do not have to accept the bonds of stigma, you can seek recovery! Once someone stops feeding their addiction, they distance themselves from the ugly nature of their disease and open the door to a new way of life. As time passes, the once suffering addict moves further and further from what once enslaved them.