December 30, 2015

Breaking the Stigma of Addiction.


TGIF! I used to literally thank God it was Friday so I could get out on the town, see my friends, meet guys and drink away my stress.

Being in my 20s, living the single life and considering myself a social creature meant that I was a regular in music venues, local micro-brews and nightclubs.

Sure I ate healthy (most of the time), went to yoga and had interests outside the party scene, but it was a rare day to see me home on a Friday night.

I thought this was normal.

I thought this is what people do at my age.

Go out, socialize at parties, drink themselves silly, meet sexy strangers and have wild adventures. Maybe I watched a few too many Californication episodes.

Either way, there was no denying it—I was the life of the party, but the party soon became the life of me.

Over time my weekends started bleeding into the week and I was finding more ways to incorporate alcohol into any social outing. When I turned 27, I realized I had not celebrated a sober birthday, Halloween or New Years in over 10 years.

So, I decided to quit drinking.

I immediately found I had so many mental blocks and self-imposed stigmas about terms alcoholic, addiction and sobriety. I’ve learned I can find much insight into myself by defining words and taking a look at what they really mean to me.

In my mind an alcoholic had to be drunk all the time, had to sleep with a bottle of vodka and couldn’t keep a job. I didn’t qualify, I drank socially and I had a job.

In my mind an addict had to be on hard drugs, they had to have withdrawals and cravings. I didn’t qualify, I only did drugs for recreation, it wasn’t everyday and I didn’t experience withdrawal.

Sobriety that was the scariest definition of all. In my mind it landed somewhere between stab your eyes out boring and comatose. People who were sober were just scared to live and missed out on grand drink-induced adventures. Looking back, it’s funny that stark viewpoint wasn’t an early red flag to my alcoholism.

Personally, I saw myself as a modern, progressive and open-minded thinker, but I had an alarmingly narrow view on this subject.

The real truth is that addiction runs rampant in our modern, tech-infused, consumer driven society and there isn’t a box to check Addict or Alcoholic on your driver’s license or tax forms.

It’s a complicated, unique disease of the mind, body, and spirit.

It has very little to do with the substance: quite simply it is the compulsion to engage in something regardless of the consequences that follow.

The habit can come in countless forms.

We have the respectable addictions such as being a workaholic or perfectionist. There are the seemingly harmless addictions like shopping or emotional eating. Then there are hard drugs that people become physically dependent on.

The soccer mom who needs several glasses of wine to relax each night. The teenager popping pain pills. The breakup routine that involves binge eating ice cream followed by guilt and shame. Sure, surface level they have different circumstances and motivations but all addicts are seeking one thing.

They are hunting for a change within themselves through an external source.

It might be relaxation, excitement, connection or belonging; the reasons are lengthy but the desire is the same. A change within themselves through an external source.

I used alcohol for years as the cure to my shyness and social anxiety, to be something other than what I was; to seek the change the inside from the outside—and it worked, for years.

But this isn’t about my story. It’s about opening the door to conversation around the stigma which surrounds addicts and what we as a conscious community can do to evolve that.

I believe the most basic way is through engaging each other in open and honest communication.

Being vulnerable and trusting another with your darkest secrets is the best way to help yourself and realize your problems are not so unique. Learning to listen compassionately is an important part of healing and probably the best way you can help a friend.

I’ve also found an unmatched power in finding commonality with others and that magical “wow, I guess I’m not alone” moment. Addiction or any compulsive behavior is much more common than you may think.

Today, I challenge you to join me in spreading love and light around the addicts, alcoholics, compulsive eaters, gamblers, sex addicts, love addicts and compulsive social media scrollers.

Speak out about your personal experience and you just may be surprised how it connects with others.

If you are looking to evolve an addiction, I’d like to offer a few suggestions to start that journey.

One organization which is really engaging people right now with all struggles of addiction and mental health is To Write Love on Her Arms  and they can offer help in finding local support groups. I also must mention the amazing, time tested work which is the model in most treatment centers today, and that is Alcoholics Anonymous.

Alcoholic or addict, we are more than the label.

We are more than judgements.

I truly believe those who suffer with addiction are highly energy sensitive and intuitive, the healers, mystics, and creatives, and have so much they can give and impact when they harness their power.

Remember, addiction is a human problem—it does not care one’s age, race, economic class or spiritual preference; it can be a substance, an action, or even a way of thinking.

Treatment is a lifelong process and there’s more paths than one can count with many U-turns and dead ends.

Join me in embracing honesty, non-judgement and compassion to end the stigma, one day at a time.





Relephant Read:

The Lies I told Myself.


Author: Kourtney Mei

Assistant Editor: Keeley Milne / Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: Imagens Evangelicas/Flickr

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