The scarlet letter – fighting the stigma of addiction

Letter A Tin LettersWhen I first really “got it” that my son was addicted to opiates, I was saddened, shocked, terrified and embarrassed. Somehow, it felt like I was responsible, that I had failed as a parent, that I had led my child astray. I felt like I was wearing the scarlet letter “A” for all the world to see. I expected to start bleeding spontaneously from my heart, my hands. If I had known then what I know now, the isolation would have vaporized and I would have felt in good company. My neighborhood is no different than the rest of the nation, where 20% of high school kids abuse prescription meds, according to a recent CDC study. Helloooo, neighbor! Is that loud teenage cursing coming from your house or mine?

Those feelings abated as I became more educated. For those who insist that addiction/alcoholism is a disease of character, I refer to babies who are born addicted… what juvenile delinquents they are and how they demonstrate a stunning lack of willpower and character. That generally turns the conversation in a different direction.

I know that most people don’t know what I know about addiction/alcoholism:  that it was defined as a disease more than 50 years ago; that brain imaging reveals the misfiring parts of the addict’s brain; that nutritional approaches show great promise for recovery. I try to share that knowledge with others because wisdom is key to recovery for parents and their beloved children.

As addiction becomes more understood and more public, we have an opportunity to support the other moms who are joining our ranks in fear, despair and sorrow. Together, we create a life brigade of experience, strength and hope.

The Phenomenon of Letting-Go

Hands releasing oxygen bubbles

There are many gifts resulting from letting go of old thoughts, beliefs and non-truths. My experience is that the Letting-Go phenomenon follows acceptance. It’s a shift in thinking. If I accept that alcoholism is a disease, then I can let go of the ridiculous notion that I can control it. I then can let go of blame, shame and responsibility of other people’s predicaments. If I can accept that I cannot control people, then I can let go of rescuing, reasoning, judging, projecting and ultimately self defeating thoughts and actions. If I can let go of what other people think of me, then I can begin to accept who I am and not who I think you want me to be. Just the act of acceptance affords opportunities for me to change. Change doesn’t hurt. Resistance to change hurts. I’m quite sure it would be nice to be in a position to say my loved ones are doing well and in recovery, but that is not the case today. Because I can accept this fact today, I can let go of wanting what I don’t have. More importantly, I am very grateful for what I do have and this is just one by-product of my acceptance / letting- go experience