Strategies for Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction

Strategies for Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction
The stigma of addiction is unfair and hurtful. Even though you’re in recovery, other people may shun you or treat you badly because of your past. Addiction stigma may also cause strong negative feelings within yourself, such as shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and depression. These, in turn, can lead to relapse.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to rise above the stigma and strengthen your recovery. 

Exercise, sleep, and eat well.
Because you feel better when you’re physically fit, well-rested, and well-nourished, you can handle challenging situations more effectively.
Build a support network.
You can connect with people who understand what you’re going through at support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous. In addition, many human services agencies have addiction counselors who can teach you important coping skills. A few close friends or relatives who are positive, patient, and supportive can also help keep you focused and strong.
Set goals and work toward them.
Decide what you want from life, figure out what’s needed to make it happen, then do it! This will give you something positive to focus your mind on, and show other people that you’re hard-working and productive. In addition, your “can-do” attitude and sense of pride will increase as you get closer and closer to your goals.
Manage your anger.
While anger is a natural human emotion, you must learn how to deal with it effectively. It’s important to control your thoughts, words, and actions in difficult situations. Strong negative feelings and behavior, especially if they happen often, can affect your physical and mental health and make a bad impression on those around you.
Believe in yourself.
This is so important! Success is nearly impossible unless you have confidence in your ability to achieve it.  
Focus on your strengths.
Define yourself by your skills and successes, not your flaws or failures. This will help keep you confident and moving forward.
Use positive self-talk.
Many people don’t even realize their pattern of negative thinking, yet it can have a harmful effect on their mental and physical well-being. It’s important to be mindful of these unhealthy and unhelpful thoughts, challenge their accuracy, and replace them with positive ones.
Forgive your mistakes.
Everyone makes mistakes now and then, and you are no exception. The important thing is that you take responsibility, apologize to anyone you’ve hurt, and learn from the experience.
Make time to do things and be with people you enjoy.
Recovery is hard work, and it’s important to balance this with some pleasure. Participate in fun activities, socialize with people who have a positive outlook on life, and find ways to relax and refresh your mind and body.
Keep a journal.
For many people, writing down major events of the day, as well as their thoughts and feelings about them, is a useful recovery and life management tool. This can help you better understand yourself, and learn what works and what doesn’t when faced with difficult situations. It can also serve as a record of your efforts and accomplishments, allowing you to track progress toward your goals.
Surprise your critics.
The stigma of addiction is widely believed. Because you had a drinking, drug, or gambling problem in the past, some people are going to assume the worst of you. The only way to change their minds is to SHOW them that they’re wrong. Even though it can be difficult, try to be your “best self” at all times. This means, for example, being more helpful, hard-working, and reliable than others expect. Importantly, when positive behaviors such as these are part of your daily routine, you will feel better about yourself as well!

Dealing with the harsh opinions and comments of others often leads to “self-stigma,” or negative feelings about yourself. For more information and coping strategies, don't miss Avoiding Addiction Self-Stigma and its Consequences.

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