Creating a Judgment-Free Community

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In recent years, our society has made great progress regarding how we treat and speak about addiction and those who struggle with it. However, that does not mean that our work is done. We must continue to put in the work to create a judgment-free community.

At Pathways Recovery Center, we strive to do our part in creating a judgment-free community for all. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Just as it is important to have unconditional positive regard for ourselves, it is important to extend that to others.

Creating a Judgment-Free Community by Reducing Stigma

Stigma is a negative belief or opinion about people. The stigma about addiction can be very damaging. Stigma can follow someone around even after they have taken the steps to get treatment and commit to recovery. It can affect a person's ability to make friends, get a job, or receive discrimination-free medical care.

The irony of stigma is that it often focuses on aspects of people that they can't control. Addiction stigma is no exception. People who are addicted deal with brain changes that make it incredibly difficult to stop using. Even their first use of substances may have been less of a choice than people think. There are many reasons people try substances, including to cope with unresolved trauma and symptoms of untreated mental health disorders.

The Harm That Stigma Causes

Even when people have been sober for years, they can still be affected by addiction stigma. Stigma can cause people to feel bad about themselves over things from their past. This can have a terrible effect on mental health and worsen anxiety and depression.

Stigma is the opposite of motivation. It can re-open old wounds and impede people's ability to heal. Addiction stigma can even stop people from getting help in the first place.

As someone who has been in recovery for an extended period, you know exactly what it feels like to be trapped in the addiction cycle. You also know what it feels like to fear or to experience judgment from others due to your addiction. Shame or fear of judgment may have made you postpone seeking help.

Stigma vs. Understanding

Each of us can do our part in reducing the stigma surrounding addiction and creating a judgment-free community. We can start by spreading awareness about what addiction really is. It is a chronic disease that affects the brain and decision-making. Addiction is not something that a person chooses to experience or that they can control.

When we help others to see addiction for what it really is, we promote understanding. Through understanding, we can promote empathy, acceptance, and compassion.

Language for a Judgment-Free Community

Another way we can work to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction is to change the way we speak about addiction. This involves avoiding using language that is inaccurate, dehumanizing, or harmful to people struggling with substance misuse.

For example, terms like “addict” reduces people to a condition they have — a condition that causes them ongoing harm. Using terms like “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “smoker” also encourages people to further identify with their substance misuse. This can make it more difficult for them to visualize themselves getting sober.

Instead, you can use say, “a person who struggles with substance misuse." Rather than using terms like “dirty” or “clean,” you can say a person is “in active use” or “sober." Those who are pursuing sobriety are not “former addicts" but “people in recovery.”

People can have completely harmless intentions and still use stigmatizing language without realizing it. While it may feel a little awkward to call them out on it, doing so is an important part of spreading awareness. By helping others learn the proper language, you are doing your part in reducing stigma and creating a judgment-free community.

Creating a Judgment-Free Community by Connecting With Local People in Recovery

At Pathways Recovery Center, we often discuss how important a good support system is during recovery. Most people that have been in recovery for a while have had the time to build up a strong support system for themselves. This could be through their 12-step support group, their family and friends, or other people that are in recovery. But it is important to remember that not everyone who is starting their recovery journey has that.

People who are new to recovery may feel isolated from others. They might not know what their identity within the community really is or how to go about connecting with others. In some cases, they might not have family members or friends that are supportive of their recovery journey. This can lead to loneliness and mental health problems. It may even result in a relapse.

We can all do our part in preventing this by reaching out to those in the community who are new to their recovery journey. Maybe it's a quiet young person who recently joined your 12-step support group meeting. You might even consider setting up a local club in your community for people who are in recovery or simply not interested in engaging in substance misuse.

With this club, you can set up fun sober activities that you can do locally. For example, you can have movie nights, go to sports performances, cook together, share potluck dinners, or host a game night. This can help everyone feel wanted and included. Remember that newcomers are still learning the ropes when it comes to all that recovery entails. Make sure to maintain a judgment-free attitude.

Everyone wants to feel accepted for who they are in their community. To be judged over something that is not in your control can feel very demoralizing. It can even prevent people from seeking help. This is why we must all do our part in reducing stigma and creating a judgment-free community. At Pathways Recovery Center, we strive to ensure that everyone feels welcome and is treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve. If you would like to learn more about our facility and all the different resources that we have to offer, give us a call at (888) 771-0966 today. We would be happy to talk with you further about our programs and services.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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Pathways Recovery Center Believes That Anyone Suffering From Addiction Can Recover And Experience The Joy Of Life Again. Join Us In Fighting Addiction One Person At A Time.
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