Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, addiction rates have skyrocketed, threatening an already taxed health care system and causing added stress and grief in our communities. People are hurting. People are searching. And sadly, many are turning to alcohol and drugs in alarming rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 93,000 overdose deaths occurred in 2020, the highest number ever in a 12-month period.[i]
It is imperative that we as a recovery community step up to help those struggling with addiction—and provide healthy alternatives to dealing with the stressors and challenges the current world brings.
While broad community support of addiction recovery is needed now more than ever before, pervasive stigma still prevents many people from reaching out for help and accessing the care they need. Many also still see addiction as a moral failing, not a medical condition that can be treated like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Stigma can be especially prevalent in the church.
As a response to these issues, many in the recovery advocacy community (like myself) have created new ways to highlight the reality and hope of recovery. For example, this space: Bright Story Shine, highlights stories of hope and resilience for those struggling with addiction and other mental health challenges. I argue that while this and other anti-stigma efforts are helpful, more needs to be done.
Why We Need to Start Talking
People—and that includes Christians—need to know that recovery from addiction is possible. We must all work to dispel the myths about addiction and the stigma that surrounds it so that more people can get help. There is light on the other side of the darkness. We need to step up and step out and share the hope that is possible in recovery. In Leonard Cohen’s song, Anthem, he says:
Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack, in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
There is a calling for those of us in recovery to step up and share our stories. In our brokenness, many have learned (where the light gets in) about the gift that the struggle of addiction can bring.
Research shows that storytelling is one of the best ways to help combat stigma. The more someone increases their personal contact with someone with lived experience, the less stigmatizing attitudes they will have. Social media is an excellent tool for this. Even for those that might be leery of publicly talking about recovery (it’s not for everyone and that’s okay!), the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous even released a statement in support of recovery advocacy (as long as it adheres to the traditions).
Your life has purpose and value—and part of your purpose might just be to share your story in a way that feels safe for you so that someone out there might see your light, praise God,[ii] and be inspired to live a new way.
[i] Retrieved from: https://www.aha.org/news/headline/2021-07-14-cdc-drug-overdose-deaths-294-2020. [ii] Matthew 5:16