“Founded and sponsored by NCADD, Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 to help reduce the stigma so often associated with alcoholism.”
Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease. If left untreated, it can be fatal. Even today, the stigma surrounding alcoholism continues to kill thousands every year. Though the opioid epidemic has taken a front seat in the news, alcohol continues to be fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Alcoholism is an illness. Stigma kills.
In 1956, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared that alcoholism was an illness. Regardless of continued advances in science and the personal experience of thousands of recovered alcoholics, many still see this illness as a moral failing rather than a serious medical condition. This misinformation serves as a barrier to treatment for countless people who desperately need support. If those in need are to find recovery, we have to eliminate the dangerous stigma of alcoholism.
When we look at the facts, we change the conversation.
Today, widespread contempt towards the alcoholism remains. Images in the media perpetuate the notion that alcoholics can never be trusted. Many of these images also promote the idea that alcoholics fit a particular profile. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Alcoholism is no respecter of age, status, gender, or economic standing. Today, it is estimated that as many as 20 million people are living lives in recovery. These people are from all walks of life. Just as alcoholism affects us all, recovery is available to everyone.
We don’t have to remain anonymous.
Men and women do recover, and those who recover inspire others through their stories. This happens through advocacy as well as in individual acts of service. When we are open about addiction, more people find freedom. Lives change. Those in need become more likely to seek the help they deserve. Help others by sharing your own story of recovery. Don’t be trapped by anonymity.
While those in need of help must accept responsibility for their recovery, they are not responsible for having the disease of addiction.
Open, supportive discussions with people battling alcoholism can create accountability and move a person towards recovery. No matter the situation, no one likes to feel judged. Learn to be a part of the solution.
Effective ways to help reduce stigma include:
- Learning about the science of mental health conditions
- Correcting others who have misconceptions about alcohol use disorders
- Supporting resources for people affected by alcohol use disorders
- Offering compassionate support
- Listening while withholding judgment
- Treating people with alcoholism with respect
- Replacing negative attitudes with evidence-based facts
- Sharing your own stories of stigma
Alcohol Awareness Month is about more than spreading awareness about the consequences of alcohol, it is about breaking the stigma of alcohol use disorders. It’s about sharing the path to recovery. Do not remain silent. Continue to stand strong. Together, we can shatter the stigma of alcoholism.