Addiction is all around us. It affects the people we love, the people we work with, the people we encounter at a stop sign, in the grocery store, in our morning commutes. It knows no boundaries: not of age or sex, not of religion or background, not of social status or sexual orientation. And it changes lives, often painfully.
But being an addict doesn’t make a person any less of a person, any less of a beautiful beating heart in need of love.
Being an addict doesn’t mean that you are incapable, weak, or unworthy. It doesn’t mean that you can’t change your life around, or that you don’t have the ability to move past what has been holding you back. The problem is, society often sees addicts in a negative light. And it hurts, rather than helps.
Back in February 2016, Recovery Brands, a company that works to connect addicts with the resources needed to fight addiction created the LIVES Challenge (Leveraging Impactful Videos to End Stigma), a three-month public video contest to help “inspire and generate a new message surrounding addiction and behavioral health disorders.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, addiction affects approximately 23.5 million Americans every year, and roughly 11 percent receive treatment.
Recovery Brands wanted to highlight that addiction-treatment gap in a positive way, hoping to encourage people to seek treatment rather than feel ashamed, guilty, or burdened by it. Their hope was to begin to reduce the negative stigma surrounding addiction and both encourage and focus on the recovery, the compassion, and the open conversation that could stem from seeking treatment and healing.
Two individuals won the contest: Tori Utley, founder of nonprofit, More Than an Addict, and Sydney Johnson, a student at Indiana University.
Here is Tori’s video:
She shares this about her experience, and about her company, More Than An Addict, which encourages people to seek treatment and change their lives:
“We see stigma as a deterrent for many people both in seeking treatment when they are struggling, as well as in recovery when they’re trying to build their lives back up — getting a job, going back to school, starting a company, mending relationships, etc. It keeps many people stuck, often feeling insecure or inadequate. Our main inspiration is our organization’s goal of eradicating stigma to help those in recovery have the empowerment, dignity, and opportunities that we believe are possible in recovery.”
Here is Sydney’s video:
She talks openly about her struggles and being at the lowest point in her life.
“This video served as a lesson in reminding me who I am. We are not defined by our past, but by how we overcame adversity.”
“Honestly, my main inspiration was wanting to help others get through the same pain that I went through. It’s never easy, but it can be done. We are all so much stronger than we realize.”
These videos, and the LIVES Challege are powerful reminders that you are not alone in your struggles and that you can overcome.
One of the hardest parts about addiction is the struggle to seek treatment, the struggle to pull yourself out of a broken place, and the struggle of trying to find yourself in a world that does not always look at you with compassion. But with Recovery Brands, and videos like these women’s: we can begin to change the stigma surrounding addiction.
One thing that resonates in this story, and in the lives of thousands of addicts working to overcome their addictions: You are more than an addict. And you are stronger than you think.