There are casserole diseases and non-casserole diseases. Yes, I mean like cheesy potato covered dishes with a sweet lady’s address label affixed to the side delivered to your door with get well cards, warm wishes, and expressions of thoughts and prayers. Then there are the non-casserole diseases. These are diseases we haven’t quite decided how to handle in social settings – we aren’t sure what the proper etiquette is or if we should even acknowledge them at all. Having grown up in a church pew, prayer requests for these diseases referred to as “special unspokens,” petitions we didn’t discuss with others and certainly didn’t expect the community to rally behind. Yet, these are ones that affect entire families, but are mostly endured in the place of isolation and utter loneliness surrounded by shame.
Addiction is a non-casserole disease. I recently met a mother who knew I worked in the field of treatment. A tear slipped down her cheek as she described her journey of supporting her loved one. “Don’t tell anyone,” She pleaded. My heart stung. How can we understand more today about how substance use affects the brain and how inner connected it can be with mental health yet still put overwhelming burden of stigma on individuals enduring these disorders? While some can identify or have felt the impact on their own family, many are just unfamiliar with the disease and may feel at a loss to know how to respond or what to say.
The stress, financial strain, relationship challenges, and other hardships that are part of dealing with substance use disorder are commonly discussed, but the false sense of moral failure, embarrassment, and even guilt is much more difficult to share. This weight that individuals, their families, and their children carry can be more than many can bear. There are high rates of divorce and depression in households experiencing substance use. Research has shown that having a parent who is an opioid user is associated with doubling a child’s risk of suicide attempts1.
The Recovery Centers of America Alumni Association is dedicated to reducing stigma surrounding substance use disorder. It exists to connect individuals to an active recovery community. It is our goal to work with alumni to help them succeed, belong, and ultimately serve others. We provide opportunities for fellowship with others in recovery, exciting activities for alumni families, a variety of support groups, and service opportunities to provide our communities with more education about addiction, substance use, and mental health.
Providing encouragement to other alumni families is critical in breaking down the barrier of shame that can keep people from pursuing recovery. When people share their experience, strength, and hope the feeling of isolation can be broken.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, call 1-800-RECOVERY now.
1. Brent DA, Hur K, Gibbons RD. Association Between Parental Medical Claims for Opioid Prescriptions and Risk of Suicide Attempt by Their Children. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(9):941–947. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0940