In this episode, women talk about how the stigma of alcoholism impacted their ability to reach out for help and get sober.
We all know what the stigma is: the homeless man in a door stoop with a bottle in a paper bag, or the woman who can't hold down a job or take care of her children are just a few examples of what we picture in our head when we hear the word "alcoholic".
The reality is that the stigma is one of the biggest roadblocks to getting sober (denial being the other one). Approximately one in ten people in the USA suffer from the disease of addiction, and many (if not most) are high functioning: holding down jobs, raising children, being productive members of society.
Eight women share their stories of how the stigma - the destructive label given alcoholics - effected their drinking and also their recovery.
From their stories, we learn that there is a stigma that children of alcoholics can have, who tragically witnessed the worst this disease has to offer as they were growing up. They talk about how in their mind that became what an alcoholic looked like: a parent who abandoned their kid, ended up in jail, passed out on the floor every night. As long as they "weren't THAT bad" they couldn't be an alcoholic in their own mind.
They talk about the stigma that comes from the outside world; the misconception that alcoholism is a matter of willpower, and therefore admitting you're an alcoholic is to admit you're weak or morally corrupt. The fact that society is only beginning to understand that alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease that left untreated is almost always fatal - just like diabetes or cancer, but because the symptoms of alcoholism are behavioral, the stigma persists that stopping drinking is a matter of willpower alone.
They talk about how they had great jobs, are loving mothers, are financially stable, didn't drink for months when pregnant, are active in their communities, and therefore can't be an alcoholic in their own mind, even as the niggling fear that they respond differently to alcohol than "normal" people grew in their mind.
All of these brave women have one thing in common; they found the courage to reach out for help, or agreed to help when pressed by loved ones. They didn't let the stigma stop them from getting sober. They are finding their way through the stigma in recovery; some by being open and honest with everyone, some by selectively telling only trusted friends and family members, some by telling no one, but joining online support groups or attending recovery meetings where they can find the people who understand.
This show is meant to chip away at that stigma, even if just a little. Stigmas are, by definition, automatic responses our brain has to a person, or a word. We all have them, about a lot of issues.
It is the Bubble Hour's mission - through the power of these brave women's stories - to demonstrate that rushing to label someone is destructive and wrong, whether we're talking about race, ethnic background, education level, economic level or alcoholism.
Facing fear of judgment and labeling and overcoming a disease like alcoholism is one of the hardest and bravest thing anyone can ever do. Staring at your flaws, your fears, the wreckage your disease left in your life and putting down the drink anyway, asking for help and staying sober a day at a time is a miracle.
We hope this episode helped raise education and about this disease that impacts more than half the adult population - either directly or indirectly.