A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a company called Recovery Brands, who focuses their research on the effects of stigmata in our world–the idea that using stigmas, or labels, for people (specifically those struggling with addictions) actually hurts, or potentially even inhibits the recovery process.
This idea really fascinated me, and really shifted my perception on addicts and addictions.
What if the world we live in is actually making it easier to become addicted, and harder to save yourself?
One of the most surprising parts of their research, in my opinion, was this:
This reflects that addicts are often afraid to seek help just because of the stigma, or judgment associated with their addictions.
How very, very sad.
Part of The Recovery Brands’ campaign is to bring awareness to the stigmata and the way that addicts are seen in society, which more often that not, is negatively. They bring this idea to life in their powerful video:
Part of Recovery Brands’ research also focused on polling recovering addicts with this question: What is one thing you wish you could tell people about your addiction? The responses were painful, honest, and heart-breaking.
I actually recorded those responses in a piece I wrote for Thought Catalog: “23 Recovering Addicts Share The One Thing They Wish People Understood About Their Addictions.”
One of the quotes that stuck with me was this:
“The opposite of addiction is connection.”
— Nick Warren
I’ve heard that before, actually in this Ted Talk Video. It’s a powerful, yet terrifying idea.
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It’s connection.”
What Johann Hari is saying, is that addiction can potentially be cured by people around the addict–the meaningful relationships, mentors, lovers, and support system that surround that person in his or her recovery.
Hari gives the example of rats alone in an environment with heroin-water vs. in an environment with heroin-water and other rats. When surrounded by other rats, the rats choose the regular water instead of the heroin water, thus proving that connections can potentially save from addiction.
Though rats and humans are obviously not the same, this idea is still strong.
Hari questions this: “What if addiction is an adaptation of your environment?”
As teachers, it’s important to hone in on these questions. What does it mean that addiction can be assisted by an environment? And how can educators play a role?
Questions regarding addicts and addictions cannot be answered easily; however, one thing is clear: it’s important that people struggling get the help they need and have support systems around them. And that’s what the role of a teacher becomes–that support system.
A teacher cannot save a student from addiction per se, but the influence and love a teacher can bring is life-changing. And no matter whether you agree with the idea that connection saves addictions, it still plays a major role. You can play a major role.