Losers. Low-lifes. Weak-minded people who can’t hold down a job.
There are many addiction stereotypes, but the truth is that many addicts look just like you and me. What are addicts like? They’re people you’d never expect to be struggling with addiction. They’re mothers and fathers, children and honor students, brilliant businesspeople and gifted artists.
The negative stereotype associated with addiction can be damaging in many ways, especially during the recovery process. Let’s take a look at how these labels can impact those struggling with addiction.
How Addiction Stereotypes Can Hurt
There’s a guy at work, Gary, who couldn’t be a better employee. He gets his work done on time and never causes trouble. Sure, he smells like alcohol sometimes but with his exemplary employee record, he could never be an addict, right?
Wrong. This is just one example of how stereotypes can hurt those struggling with addiction. Gary might not be showing up to work late or starting a ruckus, but it’s possible he has an alcohol problem. Yet, if you listen to the stereotypes associated with alcoholism, you might dismiss the notion that he needs help.
If no one believes Gary could possibly suffer from addiction, no one will reach out to help him, and Gary could go years without realizing he has a problem.
Damaging the Recovery Process
By the same token, many people don’t believe they could be addicted to drugs or alcohol because they don’t fit the stereotype of an addict. “I’m not out buying drugs in the middle of the night or hanging around seedy neighborhoods,” they might think. “So I don’t have a problem.” Yet in reality, their prescription drug addiction could be just as deadly as a crack addiction.
Negative stereotypes also reinforce the idea that a person must hit rock bottom before seeking help. Someone abusing alcohol may believe that just because they have not lost their house, their job or their family, they must be doing okay. The reality is, they aren’t. Without that major life-changing wakeup call that happens in the movies but rarely in real life, a person could go years without getting the assistance they need.
Someone abusing drugs or alcohol may even avoid seeking help because they don’t want to be seen as a failure, or they are afraid of judgment when family members find out the truth. They, too, buy into stereotypes about alcoholics and drug users, and they don’t want to be associated with them.
Addicts Come in All Forms
There’s no one typical addict. They may be young, old, male, female, gainfully employed, or incapable of holding a job. Anyone can fall prey to substance abuse, and even the most successful person can struggle with addiction. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, so you can be prepared to help a friend, loved one, or coworker.