Low Down and Dirty Shame

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

When someone decides to find help for their addiction at a south Florida drug rehab center, chances are it wasn’t an easy decision. Guilt and shame are almost unanimously felt among all people who think they have a problem and for a really bad reason; the nature of addiction is misunderstand culturally and therefore misattributed a morality to the condition. No matter what the reason a person has for needing detox at all, whether residential detox or in patient services in a south Florida detox center, they’re probably already beating themselves up internally about the morality of having an addiction to a substance.

Even family members may contribute to this internalized shame within an addict without even realizing it. Talking offhand without thinking about, say, a celebrity’s drug problem and how they’re morally reprehensible with a family member they don’t know is suffering can have long lasting effects on the ability for the person to seek help. There’s a constant push/pull between these two diametrically opposed ideas, the idea that ‘THEY’ are bad but ‘I’ am not.  

For family members, it usually takes the form of ‘Their family is bad, but my family isn’t like that, we’re BETTER’. The problem with this, whether verbalized frequently or simply communicated through action and body language, is that when your own family members do find themselves with an addiction, they will simply hide it in hopes of trying to beat it themselves. While some people have the capability to curb addictions that haven’t developed into severe, life threatening drug and alcohol abuse habits, most actually cannot and it has very little to do with morality.

One of the biggest misconceptions about addictions that is frequently parroted by people who don’t realize they’re moralizing about the condition is that ‘all addictions happen because of choice’. While some may occur that way, where a perfectly happy person just decides one day to give cocaine or methamphetamine a try, the vast majority of addictions don’t happen in that kind of emotional and environmental vacuum. Many times, there’s underlying causes, sometimes even contributed to by the person’s family themselves unknowingly, that lead to a depression, anxiety, distress or other emotional trauma in which they find the use of self medication a way to cope with problems they’re having in life. Alienation from social support has often been cited as a contributing factor to the initial use of drugs.

On top of that, the opioid crisis has proven that morality plays no part in addiction when ‘normal’ people develop addiction from a doctor’s prescription, where someone society looks up to for their contributions makes a mistake of prescribing extremely addictive medicine innocently to another ‘normal’ person who would otherwise make a ‘choice’ to ‘not do drugs’.  The real shame in our morality play over the epidemic we face is that people still think it’s okay to turn their nose up to people who suffer from substance use disorders. It’s a low down and dirty shame, actually.

If you or someone you know might be suffering from substance use disorder, there’s no shame in calling First Step Behavioral Health at (866) 971-5531 to find a treatment plan that works for you.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.