Stigma can be a good thing. A course I am taking at Harvard (online and free with no certificate) on opioid addiction has as its main goal the removal of stigma from addiction. Well, addiction today means you are a low life, a bum, a guy who can’t cope, who is unproductive, criminal and all sorts of other bad stuff. Perhaps you know someone addicted to something and you like them. Well, that’s fine, help them if you can, but a stigma means something is wrong, and stigmas are a sort of warning to keep lots of people from dropping in to see if it’s fun or not.

Addiction is now being applied to all kinds of innocuous things, like “I’m addicted to sugar,” or “I’m addicted to romance novels.” Just means you are too weak to diet or start a real relationship. OK that’s harsh, but that’s what stigma is all about. Become an addict of heroin or meth or some pharmaceutical opioid and you will lose your old friends and make new ones, like the guys in the slammer, the bail bondsman, the dealers, and other low-lifes like yourself who don’t have the guts to get a job, pay the bills, start a family and stick with them to help them live a good life too.

It’s easy to get hooked, it requires some character to stay clean and build something you could be proud of. So stigma is a group’s way of warning off others from what the addict has become. But we’ve gone all warm and fuzzy, and nothing is anybody’s fault. Criminals are the product of a bad childhood. Druggies probably have a problem with some drug-enjoying DNA that they can’t help. Alcoholics probably got it from their parents.

There might even be a grain a truth in some of that, but that’s not the point. You don’t have to let your parents dictate your life. You don’t have to let your DNA decide what you will do. You don’t have to do the same things to others that have been done to you. If you do, you may find apologists for your actions. They might give you sympathy, hand you a dollar out of the window of their Volvo, listen to your hard-luck story and agree it is “The Man” who drove you to this low state of existence. It’s all because of the fat cats who get rich and made you do it, it wasn’t your fault you were just a “Poor Weak Creature” who has lost his way.

Grow up! Stop being such a wimp. If you do pull yourself out of the swamp, you will get genuine admiration, not sympathy, from people around you who can recognize that you’ve done something difficult.

Some guys screw around on their wife, take off for the Caribbean with a bimbo and then come back and go into rehab. Rehab is fine, but it’s also a big excuse. It says I’m too weak to be good to my family, I took some drugs and it’s the drugs’ fault, I’m not responsible for what I did, it was the drugs that did it. So if you did something like that, just realize you did it. It WAS you. Then you can start getting straight with yourself and your family without hiding behind addiction.

If there were no stigma to addiction, whee, we could all get addicted and talk about it endlessly to our friends and share stories about how troubled we are, and nobody would think the lesser of us. We’d blame the weather or our brains or genetics or the dealers or who our friends are. They’d all be worried about us overdosing and would tuck us in at night and say prayers to keep us safe from the nasty drugs that overwhelmed our tender souls and carried us to addiction land. If there were a stigma, for example, friends might dump us, people would tell us to get a job as we tried to cage money along the stop lights, or lock us up when we try to stick up a liquor store.

Parents tell kids stuff that will help them, but kids don’t listen. “Just say no, wash your hands before you eat, don’t drive drunk, don’t screw around with sex until after marriage,” all that stuff was for your own good and you thought it was stupid, and they were stupid for saying it. They probably disapproved of your friends who drank or had babies in high school, or who smoked pot and tried to keep you away from them. But no, you ignored them or did just the opposite. They were Republican so the¬†kidsregistered Democratic or Peace and Freedom just to show how independent they were as they used the family car to go to rallies for Che Guevara or somebody wearing a beret.

So Stigma helps keep people out of trouble. Goths wear their stigmata proudly to display how bad they are and if you accepted them they might just scream and disappear, like a vampire in the sun.

Well, I don’t think addicts are whole people. I might feel sorry for them but accept them in my home, hang out with them at coffee shop, party with them, I don’t think so. I might try to get them into Narconon, or give them an assist, but I’m not going to friend them, listen to their troubles or loan them money until they show some guts and straighten up. Maybe it’s hard to do. Tough. Parents, teachers, friends, everybody warned them about drugs and they said fuck you and took them anyway because they wanted to get high and broke and destitute so life would stop being so boring.

So don’t expect¬†everybody to feel sorry for you or look at you the same way. You crossed the line and you know it, and stigmata goes right along with that. You’ve fallen and you damn well better get yourself upright and straight again or you won’t have any friends or family left. And other friends, seeing the stigma of you as a basket case, in rehab and in and out of jail for theft and using and dealing might think twice before they decide to follow in your footsteps. That’s why there’s a stigma for drug abuse. It’s there for a good reason, and no college course is going to eliminate it.