“My name is Harlan, and I am an alcoholic.”
It took nearly ruining my life before I could finally say this out loud. I struggled with admitting I was addicted to alcohol primarily because of the stigma associated with addiction. I thought society would see me as a drunk or defect and that I would fail to rise above these descriptions. However, after 6 ½ years of sobriety, I have shown myself and those around me that I am more than my addiction.
Unfortunately, society’s stigmatization of people with addiction or mental illness has caused many other people not to seek treatment. In fact, the second most cited reason for a person to avoid treatment (after cost) is the stigma surrounding these conditions. While the emotional costs of not seeking professional care are high, so are the costs related to healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity – estimated at $500 billion annually.
As the opioid epidemic continues, we as a society need to reevaluate how we frame addictions and mental health issues. We need to remove the stigma surrounding these conditions and approach those who are struggling with open arms rather than closed minds.
I hope my story can encourage others who are currently grappling with addiction or mental illness to reach out and get help, because there is hope for a better tomorrow.
If you or a loved one is struggling, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get you connected with people who can help.