No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. ---Robin Williams
Your voice is the most powerful weapon in the fight for recovery. The Voices Project is dedicated to amplifying the voices of the 45 million Americans who are impacted by addiction.
When you tell your story, you eliminate the stigma of addiction. Stigma is the sense of shame or embarrassment that people experience when they talk about issues like addiction, sexuality, gender, domestic abuse, or other taboo issues. That feeling of humiliation or shame can be so powerful that people will pretend that “nothing is wrong,” even when they’re in serious trouble. However, studies show that the stigma of addiction has life-and-death consequences. Fewer than 10 percent of people with substance use disorder ever seek help of any kind for their problem. They would rather remain silent than admit they are struggling.
If more people speak up and speak out about addiction, we can help eliminate the stigma of addiction. Using “people first” language helps remind others that addiction is an illness. Rather than use hateful or pejorative terms like “addict” or “junkie,” we identify as “people with substance use disorder,” “people struggling with addiction,” and “people in recovery.” Everyone’s path is different, but research shows that using these terms instead of negative, judgmental terminology actually affects whether somebody will survive their addiction or not. People who don’t understand addiction are more likely to have positive feelings about a sick person if they understand that they’re struggling with a mental health disorder.
When we speak up about substance use, we are reminding people that addiction is not a moral failing. We are people first. Before we experienced addiction, we were people. We are somebody’s child, partner, best friend, employee, and community member. We have a right to be treated like people.
Telling your story is just the beginning. For those of us who have been on the front lines of the national drug epidemic, it may feel like sharing our stories and lifting up our voices is not enough. However, we’ve learned that sharing our experiences helps build meaningful and powerful connections. Instead of feeling alone, people create communities of recovery. When we all speak up, we all win. Sharing your story could be as simple as reaching out to someone who’s struggling and saying, “I went through that, too.” It could also mean writing a letter to your local newspaper about the drug epidemic, emailing your elected representative to identify yourself and ask for solutions, or posting your support on Facebook.
Sharing your experience with recovery, calling for solutions to the drug epidemic, and talking openly about substance use disorder are all ways for you to raise your voice and save lives. Speak up, speak out, and change the narrative around addiction.