The Pain Caused By The Stigma Surrounding ‘High-Functioning’ Addiction

Nowadays, it seems like appearance is everything in current society. The rise of social media use continues to create dangerous perceptions of what happiness and success are suppose to look like. But the truth is, not everything is what it seems on the surface. Portrayals are rarely an accurate reflection of the real thing- we know this to be true especially on social media.

Just because someone has a family, shows up to work, and appears to be functioning is not always an indicator that all is well.

When it comes to addiction, there are many false preconceived notions and “one-size-fits-all” thinking that can create a painful stigma. High-functioning people suffering from addictions don’t always have tragic, rock-bottom moments you see sensationalized on television. Many individuals can deal with several of life’s challenges while maintaining an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. This ability to keep up normal appearances can make this group more difficult to identify because it’s not often readily apparent that they even have a problem on the surface.

Some key points to remember about high-functioning addiction that shatter the stigma:

  • Addiction can happen to anyone
  • It’s a chronic brain disease but some people can continue with their daily routines & responsibilities
  • High-functioning addiction can cause people to deny drinking, hide alcohol, or get angry when confronted about drinking
  • It’s still essential that people(even when high-functioning in their addiction) get help as soon as possible

Stigma Isolates & Humiliates

Alcohol is now a widely accepted part of our culture. From wine clubs to new craft breweries around every corner, it seems like there are opportunities to drink everywhere you turn making it easy for people struggling with addiction to hide in plain sight. They might seem fine on the surface, but deep down addiction is weighing heavy on their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Sometimes the stigma surrounding alcoholism and addiction is what forces people to suffer in silence. Humiliating terms like ‘addict’ and ‘alcoholic’ create falsehoods of weakness that can cause those suffering from addiction to feel less deserving than others.

We need to end the painful, marginalizing stigma surrounding addiction.

Addiction impairs the brain in many ways and it is NOT a representation of a flawed character, bad choices, or lack of willpower.

Move Forward in Recovery

Your entire life can be affected when any part of your health is compromised or impaired. Each person should feel accepted and supported for who he is, and what he manages in life. At Sunshine Coast Health Centre, we help people move through some of the biggest challenges of addiction and toward a stable and fulfilling life in recovery through our highly personalized drug and alcohol treatment programs. We receive many clients who live high-functioning lifestyles while also maintaining their addiction. It was a small part of why we changed our screen’s policy. Many don’t have the option of completely stepping away from their career for 6 weeks or more.

Usually, individuals considered “high-functioning alcoholics/addicts” have maintained a long-term substance misuse issue that hasn’t affected their way of life (e.g. they can still maintain their careers and family responsibilities). Eventually, though, that habit starts to take precedence over important tasks and obligations. The impacts of ignoring such responsibilities, to prioritize their addiction, can quickly become overwhelming and unmanageable. This is generally when individuals start considering addiction treatment.

Smash the Stigma Surrounding High-Functioning Addiction

We can all help vanquish the pain and marginalization of stigma. Let’s stop leaving people isolated in their suffering. And let’s look at people in the eye and seek to understand their struggles. We understand addiction stigma affects people’s sense of self and we’re here to walk with you on your recovery journey.

If you or your loved one are struggling with drugs, alcohol, or other types of addictions in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and other Canadian cities, reach out to us for a consultation or help in finding treatment services that fit your needs.

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