A Clear View – Putting An End to the Stigma of Addiction; How a Community can come together to Support Recovery

PUTTING AN END TO THE STIGMA OF ADDICTION; How a Community Can Come Together to Support Recovery


When looking to define buzz words that are often heard when talking about addiction, we can all come up with our own definitions, but in order to work towards achieving a recovery ready community together, it’s helpful for us all to keep in mind the authentic definitions of the following words: Addiction, which is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry; Stigma, which is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person, and; Recovery, which is a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.

The American Medical Association states that addiction is a disease—a chronic brain disease in fact. However, addiction is one of the only diseases that people aren’t shouting about from the rooftop when they are successfully in recovery ­ Why?

Maybe because many people with a substance use disorder feel ashamed, humiliated and guilty of this disease they are afflicted with. Society, for decades, has expressed harsh judgment on them with the words they use ­ (“drunk” or “junkie”), the opinions they hold ­(“it’s their own fault” or “they could stop if they really wanted to”), or the actions they’ve taken ­(not hiring a person in recovery, or simply looking at them with disdain).

Of course people are allowed to have their opinions, but the tragedy about these are that they often prevent people with substance use disorder from seeking help, whether that be by telling a friend, family member, or their physician, or by getting into treatment. William L. White wrote in Healing The Stigma Of Addiction that “Stigma’s greatest enemy is knowledge. Understanding the stigma of addiction will help open the doorway to such knowledge. It is time we all walk through that doorway”. Let’s walk through that doorway together.

One year ago, after a community forum was held in South Paris to discuss the overwhelming increase in heroin addiction and overdoses in Oxford County, a group of concerned citizens formed the Western Maine Addiction Recovery Initiative (originally called the Western Maine Addiction Task Force). This group meets monthly and anyone is welcome to attend. This group’s greatest accomplishment so far has been establishing the Project Save ME program, which is Oxford County’s police-assisted addiction and recovery initiative (PAARI). Now this group is focused on spreading the word that Oxford County residents and businesses support addiction treatment and recovery.

By coming out for the first Western Maine Recovery Rally, you too can send the message that the stigma of addiction must end, that recovery is possible, and that people with a substance use disorder are still good people!

Please join us on Saturday September 24th at 11:30am at the Unitarian Universalist Church 479 Main Street Norway where we will begin our walk to Moore Park in South Paris. Once we arrive at Moore Park there will be a barbecue, speakers, and music. This is a family-friendly event so please bring your entire family. The first 100 people to arrive at the UU Church will be given a “Never Give Up” t­-shirt to show their support. We hope to see you all there!

For more information please look up the Facebook event page, WMARI Facebook page and Project Save ME Facebook page.


By Jennifer Small & Taylor Owens, members of the Western Maine Addiction Recovery Initiative

Reprinted with the permission of the Advertiser Democrat