On Addiction: ‘You Just Need a Hand to Hold to See You Through’

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From The BMJ Opinion: “The enduring judgments around addiction in our society have long been a problem. But I hadn’t expected the stigma and lack of understanding I faced to be present even within healthcare services.

From comments I received about having ‘to be careful with junkies like you,’ to an inability or unwillingness to make eye contact, some of my experiences in healthcare services left me with a feeling of shame so strong it simply strengthened my resolve to hide what was clearly a situation of my own making. Instances like these only served to deepen the shame and secrecy I felt around my increasingly dangerous behaviour, and made me think that it was something I must deal with or endure alone.

During the early days of my addiction, it felt as if there was no one who attempted to validate my feelings of pain. None of the healthcare professionals that saw me showed me the empathy and compassion I so desperately needed. There was the unspoken expectation, I believe, that I must somehow have it in me to reign in my reliance on the medication. I had a home and a partner after all.”

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