Addiction has always been with us—but for many generations, it was something people did not talk about much, a taboo topic best left unaddressed. That is because, frankly, addiction was seen as a choice, a personal failing, a kind of weakness. Thankfully, we have evolved in our understanding of addiction, and now understand it for what it really is—a disease.

Even so, there remains much stigma. Addiction impacts countless individuals, including not only the people who struggle with addiction but their family members, too. Still, it’s something that many of us just don’t feel comfortable talking about.

You can do something to change that, though. Those who are in addiction recovery have a unique role to play in breaking down the stigma and opening up the conversation about addiction. Here are just a few practical steps you can take:

  • Be careful and conscientious in the language you use. Avoid using dated or insensitive terminology that dehumanizes or stigmatizes addiction—i.e., referring to people who struggle with addiction as “addicts.”
  • Keep attending support group meetings. Share your story, and listen to others. This will help you to become more comfortable talking openly about addiction.
  • Take advantage of “teachable moments.” You may not feel comfortable bringing up addiction out of the clear blue sky, but perhaps someone will mention the topic of alcoholism, or reference a recent news headline about drug abuse. Seize these moments to speak from your own experience.
  • Volunteer to share your story. Offer to speak at a local support group or even in a program that raises addiction awareness among children. Alternatively, you might blog about your addiction recovery, or share your story on social media.

Stigma can be deadly—so whatever you do, don’t be shy about talking about addiction as you are able.

What will you do to help break down stigma? Let us know!

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