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Having Pride in Your Rehab Story

Having Pride in Your Rehab Story

The impact of addiction on your brain’s reward system can, at first, make you feel good temporarily. Yet, the consequences of addiction, like the loss of housing and strained relationships, can leave you feeling ashamed. The consequences of addiction and other mental health disorders can make it difficult for you to find value in yourself. However, your rehab story can be an incredibly powerful tool for healing yourself, your loved ones, and others.

As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states, 61.2 million people, or 21.9%, 12 and older, have misused substances or have substance use disorder (SUD). You are not alone in facing challenges with substance misuse. While your experiences are unique to you, there are other people who have some understanding of what you are going through. SUD is filled with challenges and setbacks, but you have weathered the storm and continue to work through those difficult days because you are worthy of healing. Your commitment to your recovery showcases how valuable your rehab story is and can be for lifelong recovery. 

At New Creation Recovery, respect is a key element of our mission to support your lifelong recovery. SUD has been stigmatized for years in the eyes of the general public, the media, government agencies, and even yourself. Not only are you faced with the challenges of your own distress, but the judgment of others as well. Therefore, at New Creation Recovery, we are proud of the stigma and judgment-free space we have created to support your healing.

We respect you at every stage of your journey. You are not less than others, and you and your rehab story are worthy of being uplifted. Moreover, at New Creation Recovery, we are not here to serve up platitudes of understanding because we know where you are coming from. We are guided by and do this work because we have been there and we were helped. Our staff have faced many of the same stigmas and taboos that harm your well-being and recovery journey. Yet, much like our staff, we know with support you can overcome the distress of stigma to share your rehab story.

It is understandable if you still feel hesitant that there is any value in finding pride in your rehab story. The impact of stigma is deep and pervasive in its ability to harm your well-being. However, increasing your awareness of the stigma of addiction can help you better understand the negative impact it can have on your recovery. Thus, with more knowledge on stigma you can dismantle the grip stigma holds over you to find strength in your rehab story and thrive in recovery.

What Is Stigma?

According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW), stigma is the relationship between an attribute and a stereotype. The stereotype assigns undesirable labels, qualities, and behaviors to an individual or group with the attribute. With SUD, in particular, the attribute would be substance misuse like alcohol, prescription medication, and illicit substances. Through stigma, negative perceptions and attitudes are formed about people who use and misuse substances or have SUD. 

As the American Psychiatry Association (APA) notes, stigma often stems from a lack of understanding and/or fear. The development of stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination about SUD are often born out of misleading and inaccurate representations in the media and outdated beliefs about addiction and mental health disorders. Moreover, stigma can exist on three different levels: structural, public, and self-stigma. Looking at the different levels of stigma can give you insight into how stigma impacts your well-being, how you see yourself, and your rehab story.

Different Types of Stigma

According to the NCSACW and Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders: The Evidence for Stigma Change from the National Academy Press (NAP), there are three distinct types of stigma. The NAP also points out that the three types of stigmas overlap and impact each other.

Also known as institutional stigma, structural stigma reflects the societal and institutional manifestation of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that create and maintain prejudice and discrimination toward individuals and groups. The inclusion of laws, policies, and or regulations that intentionally and unintentionally lead to discrimination are included in structural stigma. Discriminatory practices are deeply interwoven in state and federal laws and other institutions that often go unnoticed. This type of stigma typically leads to lost and limited opportunities and resources and negatively impacts the well-being of the stigmatized group.

Structural stigma permeates every area of life, including:

  • The government and legal systems
  • Legislative bodies
  • Employers
  • Educational institutions
  • Healthcare and treatment systems
    • Attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of healthcare professionals
    • Low-quality care
    • Lack of access to resources and services
    • Poor funding
  • Criminal justice system
    • Law enforcement
    • Correctional institutions
    • State and federal courts

Public stigma refers to the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of individuals and groups in the general public. Stereotypes about others can turn into an emotional reaction or prejudice that becomes discrimination and serves to distance and exclude others perceived to have undesirable attributes. Public stigma is often a result of misunderstanding information, partial truths, and generalizations. These types of stigmas are assigned to members of a group with the undesirable attribute.

Some of the stigmatized attitudes and beliefs about SUD include:

  • Individuals with SUD choose to use alcohol and or drugs
    • They are to blame for their addiction
  • Labeling individuals with SUD as untrustworthy, dangerous, and weak characters from lack of willpower

Self-stigma forms from believing in the negative stereotypes perpetuated about you and your disorder public stigma and the discriminatory practices of structural stigma. Self-stigma fosters negative attitudes and internalized shame about yourself and your disorder. This leads to feeling flawed and unworthy of love, connection, and belonging which decreases your self-esteem and self-efficacy. It also creates a “why try effect” in which you start to believe there is no point in seeking help.

Some of the stigmatized beliefs you may hold about yourself include that you are:

  • Dangerous
  • Weak
  • To blame
  • Incompetent
  • A burden

All three levels of stigma can be harmful to your well-being. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes, discrimination and stigma can be detrimental to your health and well-being. Stigma can exacerbate mental health and trauma symptoms and strain connections with loved ones. Therefore, stigma can be the difference between seeking support and continued distress. 

While all three types of stigma overlap and impact each other, self-stigma in particular can impede your rehab story. Self-stigma can discourage you from seeking treatment. In addition, self-stigma can limit the kind of treatment you accept and impair sustainable recovery. Therefore, digging deeper into the impact of self-stigma can give you insight into the importance of self-esteem and self-worth. Looking at the impact of self-stigmas can help you see the importance of finding value in yourself and your rehab story.

How Self-Stigma Impedes Your Rehab Story

Your self-esteem plays an important role in your rehab story. Higher degrees of self-esteem are associated with setting and achieving goals. Thus, when you feel empowered by your rehab story, you are more likely to maintain your commitment to your lifelong recovery. Some ways improved self-esteem can support your recovery and help you find strength in your rehab story include:

  • Setting and achieving goals for recovery
    • Reduction in your symptoms
    • Increased ability to manage symptoms
    • Fewer financial, work, and school difficulties
  • Increased quality of life
    • Improved financial stability
    • Stable housing
    • Improved physical and mental health
    • More work and or academic satisfaction
    • Finding meaning and purpose in your life
  • Help-seeking behaviors
    • More likely to reach out for support 
      • Disclose difficulties to loved ones and ask for their help
      • Seek treatment support when you realize you have a problem
      • Reach out for additional support when needed in treatment
      • Seek and reach out for support from alumni peers in recovery 
        • Relapse prevention
        • Connection and community

Looking at these recovery behaviors highlights how impactful self-esteem is for your rehab story. However, self-stigma destroys self-esteem and the sense of empowerment you could find in your rehab story. As Katherine Ponte states in The Many Impacts of Self-Stigma, not only does self-stigma batter your self-esteem, it impedes self-efficacy and disrupts your outlook on life. It is difficult to believe in the success of your rehab story without self-esteem. Believing you have no value as a person or the ability to build skills to heal is harmful. Without support, the shame and embarrassment you associate with your disorder become ingrained in your thinking and behavior patterns.

Further, breaking down how self-stigma functions within addiction can help you better understand the barriers to recovery. Ponte notes that self-stigma can be broken into four categories that impede your rehab story:

  • Alienation
    • Feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and less than
    • You think your SUD is your fault
    • No one understands how you feel or what you are going through
  • Endorsing stereotypes
    • Investing in the negative stereotypes that are perpetuated about SUD and individuals with SUD
      • Believing the negative stereotypes are true about yourself
  • Experiences with discrimination
    • When people learn about your disorder, they treat you differently
      • Loss of opportunities like work
      • Strained and estranged relationships
  • Social withdraw
    • Avoiding making deep connections with others
    • Feeling like a burden and or embarrassment to your loved ones

The consequences of self-stigma increase distress that perpetuates the stressors that may have led to your substance use. As pointed out in Plose One, there is a shame addiction cycle that impedes recovery. The shame addiction cycle is a pattern of self-destruction. You use substances to escape or avoid negative emotions like shame, only for your use to increase feelings of shame. Thus, understanding and working to reduce your self-stigma is an essential tool for supporting your rehab story. Learning how to reduce self-stigma can give you the tools you need to truly heal. With reduced self-stigma, you can build the rehab story you deserve.

Reducing Self-Stigma for Long-Term Well-Being

Stigma is such a pervasive part of so many people’s experiences and lives. Thus, the thought of reducing stigma is understandably daunting. Although stigma is a difficult thing to dismantle, you do have a say in your own rehab story. You cannot prevent other people from thinking negatively or stereotyping you. However, you can build the tools you need to recognize that you are your own person who is worthy of recovery, love, and a fulfilling life.

Yet, it is also important to remember that support can be an invaluable part of your rehab story. Support from your loved ones, your recovery peers, and clinicians can help you recognize and reclaim your self-worth. You cannot change other people or yourself overnight. However, as noted in Addiction Research and Theory, stigma intervention can be a powerful tool in reducing stigma in your life. You can utilize acceptance and mindfulness strategies to effect change in the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and overt actions. 

Through stigma strategies like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), you can accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment and let them go. Thus, with deeper self-awareness and self-understanding, you are reminded that acceptance of your SUD and positive emotions can co-exist in your rehab story.

Finding Pride in Your Rehab Story

Your rehab story is a part of your recovery journey and your journey as a person. It is important to remember that you are not just your sobriety. There are so many other things that help make up your identity. However, your rehab story can be another invaluable piece of your identity. Your rehab story can help guide how you feel about yourself and engage with the world. 

Every challenge and triumph of your life tells the story of you and the wealth of experience and understanding you can offer others. Your lived experiences are not only important to your own rehab story but can be a source of motivation and change for your loved ones, your recovery peers, and countless others.

Fostering Community for Your Rehab Story at New Creation

Finding healing and pride in your rehab story can touch more lives than you can imagine. The connections you build with others on your recovery journey are a fundamental part of healing. Support services like family therapy, group therapy, yoga, and alumni happen with other people because connection allows for acceptance and belongingness. In community with others, you are reminded that you matter, that you are accepted without judgment, that you are wanted, and that you belong.

At New Creation Recovery, we know recovery is a lifelong process. Lifelong recovery is built not only on adaptive recovery tools but also on the connections and community you form along the way. Connection is a powerful tool for recovery and can empower your rehab story as you find belonging through shared experiences. While your specific experiences are unique to you, engaging with others in the SUD community can be beneficial to recovery. Hearing and seeing your peer’s lived experiences shows you that you are not alone. Knowing you are surrounded by people who love and believe in you leaves little space to hold on to the pains of self-stigma.

Therefore, we have built a rich alumni community where you can continue to build your rehab story. Through the founding of a strong and mutually supportive network, you can find connection and belonging. With connection and belonging, you are reminded that you and your rehab story matter. At New Creation Recovery, we are committed to being a part of every stage of your journey. No matter where you are on your recovery journey, we are here to provide non-judgmental support. In the same way that others helped us shed our shame, we are here to pay it forward. We want to help you shed your shame to reclaim your life and find fulfillment in lifelong recovery. 

Finding pride in your rehab story can support your psychological well-being for lifelong recovery. However, the stigma of addiction can increase feelings of embarrassment and shame, which decreases self-esteem. Through self-stigma, in particular, you can be overwhelmed by the belief that you are those stereotypes. When you devalue yourself, it becomes easier to believe you cannot be helped or that you are not worthy of healing, which further impedes your recovery. Therefore, it is important to engage in stigma interventions to learn how to accept your experiences without judgment. At New Creation Recovery, we are committed to fostering connection and community to help you let go of shame and judgment to thrive in your life. Call (877) 868-5730 today.