Addiction is a widely misunderstood condition. If a person doesn’t grasp the complexities of addiction, they might assume that substance use is a matter of choice. If someone has a good enough reason to stop drinking or using drugs they’ll simply stop — right? In reality, suffering from addiction is not so black and white. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease. It can be effectively treated, but once it develops it can never be entirely cured. People develop substance use disorders for a variety of reasons, including genetic predisposition, underlying mental illness, unresolved trauma, or environmental factors. Over time, with repeated exposure to chemical substances, the chemistry of the brain physically changes and substance use becomes compulsive. No matter how hard a person tries to put down the drink or the drug, they cannot successfully do so without some degree of professional help.

Because there is such a widespread stigma surrounding substance use and addiction, it makes sense that there is also a stigma surrounding rehab. “Going to rehab” is a taboo topic in many social circles. A group of suburban housewives might gossip about the neighbor down the road, whose son had to go to rehab after a short-lived love affair with opioid narcotics. Celebrity tabloids often feature struggles with drug abuse among the rich and famous, exploiting those who suffer from a life-threatening disease. It can be difficult to separate the true from the false when it comes to addiction and going to rehab. Rest assured, if you are considering going to rehab to combat a serious substance use disorder, you are absolutely making a choice that is in your best interest.

The Disease Model of Addiction

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

Understanding addiction as a chronic medical condition helps break the stigma. This is part of the reason why addiction education is so important. If you or someone you love has been battling addiction and you are interested in learning more about how and why substance use disorders develop, contact us today. If you have previously battled addiction and you feel comfortable sharing your story with others, you have been gifted the unique ability to help break the stigma through personal experience. The more widespread addiction education becomes, the more people will ultimately feel comfortable seeking the professional help they need to recover.

What is a Stigma?

The American Psychological Association defines a stigma as, “The negative social attitude attached to a characteristic of an individual that may be regarded as a mental, physical, or social deficiency. A stigma implies social disapproval and can lead unfairly to discrimination against and exclusion of the individual.” Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from substance use disorders often face a social stigma, and they are rarely viewed from a place of compassion and understanding. This is — in large part — because the consequences associated with active addiction often resemble irresponsibility and impulse control. For example, a middle-aged woman who is struggling with severe alcoholism might cheat on her husband, drive drunk with her children in the car, lose her job, and spend a good portion of her savings on alcohol. To the outside world, these behaviors might seem disgraceful. “How could she cheat on her husband when he has been so patient with her, so kind to her?” “Why would she show up to work drunk like that, she must know better!” In reality, this woman is desperately trying to quit drinking on her own. Every morning she vows that she will stay sober through the day and get her life back on track, only to find herself intoxicated by that very same evening. Addiction can be an extremely isolating disease, partially because those who struggle are often met with aversion and judgment.

Overcoming the Addiction Stigma

When it comes to successfully overcoming the stigma surrounding addiction and addiction treatment, it is important to understand addiction as a disease. This often helps people come from a place of compassion rather than disdain. If you have been struggling with addiction, educating yourself on the Disease Model of Addiction can mean the difference between self-awareness and shame. Stereotyping can be extremely hurtful, especially when you are the one being stereotyped. Of course, education is only half the battle. Once you better understand addiction, you will have the tools and resources you need to take action and reach out for help.

What is Rehab Really Like?

When you think of drug and alcohol rehab, the image your mind conjures up is likely pretty far off base — especially if you have never previously been to treatment. In reality, going to rehab consists of living with other people who are struggling with similar issues and undergoing a range of group workshops throughout the day. A typical day might look like:

  • 8 AM — Wake-up call.
  • 8:30 AM — Breakfast in the group dining room (maybe a chef-prepared meal, a catered meal, or a self-prepared meal depending on the rehab you choose).
  • 9:30 AM — Morning meditation.
  • 10 AM — Group therapy session.
  • 11:30 AM — Holistically-based group workshop.
  • 12:30 PM — Lunch in the group dining room.
  • 1:30 PM — Group therapy session.
  • 3 PM — Yoga therapy.
  • 4:30 PM — Individual therapy.
  • 5:30 PM — Group therapy session.
  • 6:30 PM — Off-site Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
  • 7:30 PM — Dinner in the group dining room.
  • 10 PM — Lights out.

Most rehab centers will provide their clients with full, structured days. You will be expected to participate in all addiction group sessions, workshops, and recreational activities. Of course, your daily schedule will vary significantly based on the rehab center you choose. To learn more about reputable treatment options in your area, contact Recovery Centers today.

At Recovery Centers we understand how difficult it can be to pick up the phone and reach out for help. While admitting that your substance use has become an issue is the first step on the road to recovery, the second step is even more important — taking action. As soon as you make the decision to contact us you will be well on your way to reclaiming your life and overcoming addiction. If you have additional questions about how to break the stigma surrounding addiction or if you are interested in finding the best treatment center for you, contact us today. We look forward to helping you in every way we can.