Fighting the Stigma

Addiction can be lonely and isolating, not only for the person struggling but also for family members. Both face the weight of public condemnation and the sting of hypocrisy. We in society hear the words, the opposite of addiction is connection, and addiction is a family disease. Yet we judge and shame as if we are not part of the community that creates the conditions for addiction.

Goethe once said, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” Each one of us is human. Any one of us can unknowingly fall into addictive patterns, and some of us are more susceptible. Genetics, the strength of substances, social dislocation, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences — all play a role in developing substance use disorder. Until we treat all citizens as fellow human beings — walking in their moccasins — we will continue to isolate, marginalize, and keep down a silent, suffering “underclass” in the chains of addiction.

To Walk in These Moccasins

by Teresa Cobleigh, aka “Mama T”

Please try to understand me

And judge me not

For I am the brother

the son of a mother

one of the million

Sisters, uncles, fathers, friends

And one of you

Don’t call me weak

Or judge me for my affliction

Who stood by me?

Were you there to listen?

There are few who knew my heart

Many of you seemed miles apart

How does it feel to walk in these moccasins?

Chin up, grin, and bear it

Stuff it down

Carry on

Never measure up

Count my failings

Preach the moral high ground

Give me your cold shoulder

A font of nothing from a polished cup

Please try to understand me

And judge me not

For I am one who stood before you

One who came as the least

In a broken, fatherless generation

Your lost

marginalized

homeless

addicted

neglected

shunned

judged

lost sheep

I am

The one left behind

The one you didn’t make time for

The one who fell from favor

The one you didn’t visit or call

 Yes, flawed

 No more or less than any of you

So cast no stones

 I am one of you

And I am one who took the fall

We of little faith

How long?

How long before we open our hearts?

How long before we love another as ourselves?

Are these not serving hands?

How long before we rise and stand?

Every child is worthy

Who will speak for them?

The misguided, misunderstood

Cast aside and forgotten?

Perhaps one who bore a motherload

Will stand to speak her truth

One who watched with despair

When no one was there.

Leaders of a generation

Hear my prayer!

To know the heart of one who struggled

To know the pain of one so troubled

Their voices we might hear

With our God-given ears!

I carried him with me

I carry him in my heart

I followed his footsteps

And we made lovely footprints in the sand

We explored this beautiful, sacred land

The beaches, the mountains,

 the deserts, the plains

And I would do it again, again and again

To have experienced both the joy and the pain

To have loved unconditionally

To have known this greatest gift

And to bear witness

To the broken-hearted

voice crying out

and the part in all of us that needs love,

connection and healing

So, hear my prayer

And forgive us our trespasses

As we seek to better understand and

Love one another

And see each one

As sister and brother

Together, we can fight the stigma. Together, we can create resilient communities, free of judgement and full of hope. Together, we can be the difference.