“Addiction doesn’t discriminate – nor should society”
There appear to exist in society a belief that addicts are wretched types who deserve whatever ill befalls them. The covert message seems to be that if only addicts tried harder they would not have to battle with addiction. The truth of the matter is that addiction to drugs or alcohol does not discriminate but affects the rich and poor, and people of all ethnicities and any age.
This was clearly exemplified when it was reported that Paul Sigmund IV, the chief-of-staff to the mayor of New Jersey's capital city, Trenton, was charged on Sunday for attempting to purchase drugs. The story touches on a general belief in society that a white politician, a member of a prominent political family, is somehow exempt from the grip of addiction.
Our experience here at Life Works tells us a different story. During the seven years of operation we have provided addiction treatment to people from all social backgrounds, including the famous, high flying academics, parents, and adolescents. Having attended boarding school does not necessarily indicate that one has received proper parenting and that one is not genetically at risk of developing an addiction. Nothing speaks louder of the non-discriminatory nature of addiction than continually witnessing this myth being dispelled.
It can be difficult to predict with any accuracy who will suffer from addiction, and while a lot more is understood about the nature of addiction today, it is recognized that addiction results from a highly complex interplay of a factors. A strong genetic component has been identified, although societal and familial factors play a potent role in the development of addiction.
The question begs what factors contribute to the stigma attached to addiction and why addicts are frequently viewed as weak and immoral. A possible explanation is that resourceful individuals of a high socio-economic status often manage to sponsor their addiction for a longer period of time, and so avoid dealing with some of the consequences of their addiction which often involve financial bankruptcy and ill health. In this way the person manages to portray an image of success and high functioning to the world, while the private situation may tell another story. Another contributing factor to the stigma surrounding addiction may stem from the very fact that scientists, although considering it an illness, are unable to attribute it to a single cause for which a medical cure is available. Failing to recognize addiction as an illness naturally perpetuates the notion that willpower will singlehandedly provide the cure.
It is certainly true that willpower is required to sustain a successful recovery. However, addiction recovery necessitates the willingness to recognize the danger of the addict to act on one’s own will which has led to destructive behaviours. H.O.W. is a common acronym in the fellowship communities, and stands for the importance of recovering addict’s honesty, openness and willingness. With professional help and a deep rooted willingness to change, addiction recovery is possible.