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Why We Need to Reframe the Narrative Around Rock Bottom in Recovery

Here Are The Biggest Lessons I Learned As a Peer Support Specialist and in my Own Recovery Journey

By Sandy Pace Published 25 days ago 4 min read
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Have you ever struggled with substance abuse or Addiction? In 2010, I did. Acknowledging and overcoming my challenges was not easy. Why? Society often sees relapse, Addiction, and substance abuse as character flaws. My biggest barrier was self-stigmatization, fearing judgment whenever I considered seeking help.

It took years to admit my struggles due to this stigma. But Addiction is not a character flaw—it is a medical condition requiring understanding, compassion, and proper treatment. If you know or are experiencing substance challenges, remember the following.

Recognizing Addiction as a Disease.

It is equally important to recognize that recovery involves a lot more than just quitting substances. It encompasses rebuilding relationships, addressing underlying mental health issues, and developing healthy coping mechanisms. By emphasizing comprehensive recovery efforts, including holistic treatment approaches and ongoing support, we empower individuals to achieve sustainable healing and reclaim their lives.

Taking a more comprehensive approach enhances personal well-being and strengthens communities by promoting resilience and reducing the societal impact of Addiction. In other words, embracing Addiction as a treatable medical condition and supporting multifaceted recovery strategies is essential for fostering a supportive and inclusive environment where individuals can thrive.

Empathetic and Trauma-Informed Language

Empathetic and trauma-informed language is crucial. Words matter. Why? Using empathetic and trauma-informed language is not just about semantics; it is a powerful tool that empowers individuals in their recovery journey. When we choose our words carefully, opting for terms like "person with a substance use disorder" instead of "addict," we validate their humanity and emphasize that their condition does not define them. Being mindful of this shift in language fosters a sense of dignity and respect, crucial elements for building self-esteem and confidence in individuals seeking recovery.

Active listening strengthens this supportive environment by acknowledging and validating their experiences without judgment. Phrases such as "I can see how difficult this is for you" convey empathy and understanding, reinforcing that their feelings are valid and heard. By consistently employing these practices, we empower individuals to reclaim their narrative, instill hope, and foster a positive mindset essential for sustained recovery.

Acknowledging Feelings and Situations

Meeting individuals where they are can be transformative. Refraining from judgment and embracing empathy, we acknowledge their feelings and validate their experiences. Simple statements such as "It's okay to feel this way" carry immense power, fostering trust and creating a safe environment for open communication. This approach ensures that individuals feel heard and understood, laying a solid foundation for meaningful interaction and progress in their journey toward recovery.

To effectively meet individuals where they are and support their journey toward recovery, it is essential to take a non-judgmental and empathetic approach. Start by actively listening to their concerns and experiences without imposing your judgments or preconceptions. Acknowledge their feelings sincerely, using empathetic language that validates their emotions. For instance, phrases like "I can understand why you feel this way" or "It's completely normal to have these emotions" demonstrate empathy and foster a sense of acceptance.

When we do this, we help create a safe space where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves, which is a crucial part of recovery. Encourage open communication by reassuring them that their thoughts and feelings are respected and valued. This supportive environment builds trust and empowers individuals to explore their challenges and strengths, facilitating meaningful progress in their recovery journey.

Encouraging Self-Advocacy and Support Networks

Empowering individuals to advocate for their needs and actively participate in their treatment is pivotal for their recovery. Encouraging the establishment of support networks—comprising friends, family, support groups, and professional counselors—provides essential elements of belonging, understanding, and expert guidance. These networks offer emotional support and practical advice and contribute significantly to recovery by fostering a sense of community and shared experience.

Seeking professional help is also crucial and a testament to one's courage and commitment to personal growth. Professional counselors bring specialized knowledge, skills, and unbiased perspectives that can significantly enhance recovery outcomes. Why? Professionals offer tailored strategies, therapeutic interventions, and psychological support that address the complexities of Addiction and promote long-term well-being.

Embracing professional help demonstrates strength in recognizing the need for expert guidance and proactive steps toward healing. It reflects a courageous decision to prioritize self-care and embark on a path of positive change, underlining the importance of comprehensive support in navigating the challenges of addiction recovery.

Final Thoughts

My journey through Addiction and recovery taught me the importance of empathy, support, and changing societal perceptions. Addiction should be seen as a medical condition, not a flaw. We can support recovery with dignity and compassion by using empathetic language, acknowledging experiences, and encouraging self-advocacy. We can build a more inclusive and supportive community, focusing on recovery and mental health.

It is crucial to reframe the narrative around addiction to create effective support systems and ensure that those facing addiction receive the dignity and respect they deserve. Let's create a healthier, more compassionate society concerning how we view substance abuse so individuals have a greater chance of success.

References and Resources

American Psychological Association. (2021, September 22). Causes of Addiction. Psychology Today Canada.

Lesavoy, F. (2020, July 20). What Most People Don't Know About Trauma and Addiction [Blog post]. Psychology Today Canada.

Saitz, R., et al. (2008). The case for chronic disease management for Addiction. Retrieved from PubMed Central []

Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & Hyman, S. E. (2015). Neurobiologic Advances from the Brain Disease Model of Addiction. New England Journal of Medicine, 373(14), 1355-1367. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1511480

Stigma and substance use disorders: A clinical, research, and advocacy agenda URL:

Trauma-informed language and interviewing. (n.d.).

Staff, W. (2023, April 28). Holding Space for Others - WRSPC. WRSPC.

Petroziello, A. (2020, June 24). Self-Empowerment and Self Advocacy in Mental Health. Empower Your Mind Therapy.


About the Creator

Sandy Pace

I’m a freelance writer with ADHD and anxiety. Who’s passionate about mental health awareness and other related topics. And has written for publications like ADDitude Magazine, Thought Catalog, TotallyADD, BuzzFeed @ other publications.

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