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Why Shaming People with Addiction Doesn’t Really Work

Why Shaming People with Addiction Doesn’t Really Work

Author: Justin Mckibben

Does anyone else remember that episode in Game of Thrones when Cersei Lannister (played by the amazing Lena Headey) was marched naked through the streets of King’s Landing for the “walk of atonement”? During this public ritual punishment, the Queen Mother is followed by Septa Unella, who rings a bell to attract the attention of the crowd while repeatedly crying out “Shame!” to encourage the people to leer and jeer at Cersei.

Remember how well that worked out… for everyone… especially Septa Unella?

Well, in case you are one of those people who have never watched this show and have no clue what I’m talking about… SHAME!

But seriously, the thought of it drives home a big point about how people try to use shame and disgrace to modify the behaviors they disapprove of. People in modern times, outside of the 7 kingdoms, will say stuff like “shame on you” or “you should be ashamed of yourself” in an attempt to deter someone from doing something they do not agree with. Sometimes, with good intentions, parents use this tactic as an alternative to physical punishment. Other times people will use shame to manipulate and control others.

But does shame really work? In the case of shaming people with addiction, it doesn’t seem to go far at all.

Shame VS Guilt

One thing people first have to understand is the difference between shame and guilt. Some would say that someone who has no shame is someone who lacks humility or a conscience. People may say that if you don’t feel ashamed, you must think you are too good for others or have no consideration of others. However, that is not necessarily the case.

When someone feels guilt, that is something from within that compels us to see the fault in our own actions. Guilt is based on your own view of something you have said or done that has been harmful to others. It is the consciences way of keeping us in check. Guilt and shame are not the same thing.

Shame is how we experience the disapproval of others. It is the adverse emotional response to being singled out and judged by others for being wrong or doing wrong. So guilt tells us that we know something we are doing is wrong, but shame is the outside world telling us it is wrong even if we don’t feel that inside.

To sum it up:

Acting with clear knowledge that a behavior is unacceptable is what typically inspires feelings of guilt. Thus, it is associated with a specific behavior and is not likely associated with psychological distress such as depression.

Shame can relate specifically to one’s entire self. It says “I am wrong” instead of “my choice was wrong”. This can put people at risk of developing unhealthy conditions like:

Why Shaming Doesn’t Work

Shaming someone into changing is manipulating their fear or social isolation or criticism to control their behavior. Our connection to each other is so crucial for out well-being, both psychologically and physically, that it can often be used against us. For some people the level of social rejection from shaming will scare them into avoiding that emotional punishment. Yet there is still an issue with this method at its core.

It’s like in that movie Inception, when Leonardo DiCaprio taught us all how to dream within a dream (I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately). At one point they talk about how an idea implanted in the mind won’t take if the mind knows it wasn’t organic; if it didn’t come from within.

Shame can be like that. If you tell someone that they should be ashamed of themselves for using drugs, they might stop because they need the social connection. However, if they do not themselves see that their drug use is harming themselves and others, then shaming them will drive them into hiding to avoid persecution.

For many who suffer with substance use disorder the addiction itself has an extreme emotional attachment of some kind. If the individual is motivated enough to use drugs, or believes they are capable of control without consequence, the shame will only result in them hiding their problems even more and further isolating themselves.

Shame and Stigma and the Self

The shame of the stigma of addiction can be counterproductive to an addict getting help. Ultimately, shame can drive stigma and further damage the individual’s chances of personal development. People can internalize shame and sabotage their self-worth, which often causes people to care less about their own safety.

If their choices are being dictated by anxiety then the destructive habits can increase as the shame drives them to remove themselves from those who disapprove of them. This isn’t only true for addiction. Shame can influence other adverse actions, such as:

Shaming people with addiction or people with mental health disorders is only supporting the stigma that make them feel separated from us. Telling an addict to be ashamed of themselves for their addiction may force them to do something, but this strategy is vastly ineffective when compared to compassion and support.

Research has shown shame is especially damaging when inflicted by someone who the individual is deeply connected to. Parents, family members, spouses and loved ones who shame each other create lasting imprints on one another. That strong emotional leverage can create an even deeper divide between us and the ones we love by diminishing our self-worth.

So shaming our loved ones who struggle with addiction may be less likely to inspire them to get help and more likely to scare them away from asking us for help when they need it.

No Pain No Shame

So to clarify, shaming someone may seem like it gets the job done, but in reality it is not effective at motivating healthy behaviors. In fact, shaming someone creates social withdrawal and undermines self-esteem. For someone struggling with substance use disorder, there is probably already enough feelings of disconnect of self-defeatism without being shamed.

Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with someone about how their behavior is impacting you. Setting boundaries and being honest is still important, but doing so in a compassionate way is more conducive to encouraging someone to do the right thing for the right reasons.

If we want to avoid hurting one another, we should avoid trying to shame each other into doing what we want. Shaming people with addiction isn’t going to heal their affliction. Making them feel separate and alone will not inspire the kind of change that creates stronger bonds. Focusing on celebrating good deeds can help a lot more than dwelling on every bad one and holding it over someone’s head.

Nurturing recovery is more powerful than shaming addiction.

Having a family member who has suffered can be harder on you than you know. Too many people don’t know how to get the help they need for their loved ones, and too many of our loved ones suffer for too long because they are afraid of the affects that the ones they care about most will face. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Author: Justin Mckibben

As much as I love where I come from, Columbus, Ohio has been through a lot recently. Ohio in general has seen some of the worst addiction and overdose rates in its history, and the state was actually sited as being #1 in opioid overdose deaths in the country. So of course there are very strong opinions about the devastation caused by substance abuse. Having grown up in Columbus, it is sad to see how the community is suffering. It is even more disturbing to see how some are reacting. When I came across this headline and saw the comments being made, not just by the store but from people in support of their remarks, it disturbed me deeply.

Now many across the state are in an uproar about the controversy that has been brought on by one convenience store in Columbus, Ohio. The owners posted hand-written messages around the store that are appallingly indifferent to the pain of the people in their neighborhood.

The signs of stigma…

West Broad Street in Columbus is a side of town I’m pretty familiar with, especially while in active addiction, so I’m sure that plenty of people have seen these signs. The Save Way Mini Mart on West Broad Street displayed the two notes that they hoped would dismay customers from stealing, but some patrons have found it insulting and offensive.

One sign, near the front door, says:

“Keep bags up front. Don’t stink! Take showers. Take care of your kids. Stay sober don’t OD. Nothing is free.”

The second sign was placed above a shelf holding cases of tin foil. Some will use tin foil to cook whatever substance, often heroin but not exclusively, before smoking or injecting it. This one states:

“Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you.”

Yes, let this all sink in for a moment. Not just the fact that the word “junkie” is so destructive, but the content that follows is callous.

First thing is first, this is inexplicably ignorant to the reality that is shaking the world right now. With more people across America than ever being hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol, and higher rates of overdose deaths than ever in our nation’s history, how can people still believe these kinds of stigma?

According to WSYX/WTTE, a local news source, the store’s management would not speak on camera, but they told the news station they meant no offense, but also said the signs will not be taken down.

Really, no offense?

What is wrong with this picture…

This is wrong on so many levels, and I can’t believe I actually have to explain to some people why, but just in case I’ll give it a shot.

These signs insinuate statements that are so incredibly wrong on so many levels. To sum it up, these signs say:

  • All addicts stink/don’t shower
  • All addicts don’t take care of their children
  • All addicts are thieves
  • If you are an addict, you deserve to overdose (OD)

These are all equally as stigmatic and offensive, but that last part is just disgusting. The amount of indifference toward those in pain must be pretty intense for someone to willfully wish overdose onto someone else. To mock the despair and hardship of some while essentially telling them, and promoting to others, the idea that addicts deserve to overdose. Shrugging off the death of people who battle an insidious illness every day because they are “junkies” is repulsive.

Beyond that, the fact is these signs ignore what statistics have been telling us about addiction being more than just something impacting a certain demographic. These stereotypes are a huge part of the reason why it is taking us so long as a society to move forward.

Not all addicts are homeless! Not all addicts are absentee parents! Not all addicts are poor! Addiction touches the CEOs and stock brokers the same way it touches the unemployed and criminal. When we make such harsh generalizations of people who need our compassion we marginalize people who already often feel chastised, misunderstood or hopeless.

To those who comment…

Now as I said, when I first saw this story, the signs themselves we incredibly shameful, but the comments it received in support of this message and ridiculing addicts only compounded the issue. People who say that people ‘choose’ to be addicts and that they ‘choose’ to do drugs and ruin their lives.

It is baffling how some people still insist addiction is a choice. Even when the medical community recognizes it as a medical condition, people adamantly deny that it is a disease; when many regard it as a brain disorder, consisting of various psychological and physical factors. Yet people still go on about how it is the addicts fault because they chose that life.

Sure, people choose to do drugs, but we don’t choose to become addicted. That isn’t up to use. How many people drink and do drugs in their lifetime and don’t become addicts? More than anyone will ever know. A lot of you have probably had your share of experiments. So count yourself lucky, you didn’t have to walk the path many of us do. Stop being self-righteous; try being grateful.

The stigma is killing us…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimates that 91 Americans are dying of an opioid overdose every day! A true tragedy is that many people struggling with drug addiction never seek help because of the judgment they could face. They prolong their suffering as a result of blatant and baseless stigma, which can have a lasting impact. People are actually dying every day because stigma can discourage people from seeking help.

How many parents avoid getting help because of people who think addiction makes them horrible caregivers, or neglectful and absent? How many families are torn apart because the fear of how it looks to the world to be an addict? How many have died before they could get treatment?

Some people want to treat actions like this as no big deal. This writer thinks this is a pretty big problem. To suggest that a heroin addict, or any addict, deserves to overdose, or even die, for stealing tin foil… is insanely irresponsible and inconsiderate to the wellbeing of not just the afflicted individual, but the community.

Don’t let the stigma block you or your loved ones off from the solution. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are no alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Truvada Protected 100 Percent of Study Participants from HIV


Author: Shernide Delva

A recent study shows that a pill to prevent HIV protected 100 percent of its study participants.  Not a single person contracted the potentially deadly virus in over two and a half years of observation. The research revealed that despite rising rates of STIs in the group, as well as a decline in condom use, the pill was able to protect everyone involved from HIV.

The study was conducted by doctors from the managed care company Kaiser Permanente in Oakland California.  It consisted of 657 people who took the pill PrEP, a daily pill that known to treat and prevent HIV.

Lead Researcher Dr. Johnathan Volk of Kaiser Permanente said that the results are exciting:

“What our study shows very reassuringly is that PrEP works in a real world setting. HIV prevention in 2015 is very exciting because we have several tools that are available for reducing risk, and PrEP is one of those tools.”

The drug PrEP, which stands for preexposure prophylaxis, is more commonly known by its brand name Truvada. It has been on the market for HIV since 2004 but was not approved by the FDA for HIV prevention until 2012.

As of 2014, only about 3000 people had begun taking it even though the pharmaceutical company estimates close to a half-million Americans could be good candidates for the drug.  The findings are significant because it is one of the first “real world” studies of PrEP use as opposed to clinical trials done in the past. In the study, 99 percent of those who participated were gay males.

While the drug seems to be well-known to the gay community, more work needs to be done to reach high-risk men and women, transgender women and injection drug users. Truvada can be used to protect drug addicts who share intravenous needles from acquiring HIV and of course anyone who engages in unprotected sex could benefit. Still, many people from these communities do not know about the drug or know very little.

“We want to make sure we’re reaching all individuals who are at risk for HIV,” said Volk. “When you look at who is getting infected with HIV, we still have work to do.”

Criticisms of Truvada

When the drug was first approved by the FDA, many were critical of Truvada as it felt it would give people a false sense of security and result in engaging in irresponsible reckless behavior.  Some HIV/AIDS experts argued that it promotes irresponsible sexual practices and may be responsible for declining condom use and rising rates of other STIs.

Unfortunately, there concerns are valid. In Volk’s study, it was found that after six months on PrEP use, 30 percent of the participants had at least one STI, ranging from chlamydia to gonorrhea and syphilis. After 12 months, that percentage increased to 50 percent of participants.

“Not a single dude I know that is on Truvada is using condoms,” is a comment I ran over just while I was doing research. Apparently it is even common in the gay community for those who use Truvada to be called “Truvada whores.” Clearly, this form of treatment is controversial in the communities who benefit from it the most.

Nonetheless, Truvada is intended to be used along with condoms. It does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases. Those for Truvada argue that people would not use condoms or protection anyway so the drug is doing more good than harm.

Conclusion from the Study

Volk is careful to note that he did not expect these results when originally planning the study. He explained that he would have expected an HIV rate of 8.9 cases per 100-person. Instead the HIV incidence rate was zero.

Still, he emphasizes that more research and studies are needed to confirm the results. He believes that this behavioral data is not rigorous enough to establish a causal link to Truvada use. The data does not assess the risk of the participant or their partners and it still does not take into account whether people are not using condoms if there partner is also taking the drug. There also is not a control group that assesses whether PrEP use did or did not change people’s sexual choices.

“Without that more nuanced understanding of when and how people are using condoms, it’s really difficult to make those determinations,” he said.

There definitely is a lot more to be looked at. Another criticism of the study is that it took place in San Francisco, an area with higher rates of HIV therefore higher rates of HIV treatment so the virus may not be detectable. Volk suggests his findings may not be applicable to other cities.

Regardless, Volk is excited about the results:

“It really extends the very impressive evidence we have from randomized controlled trials and demonstration projects and provides us with very exciting news: that this medication can be delivered effectively in a real world setting,” Volk concluded.

What do you think? Should a drug like this be heavily promoted? It is hard to tell where the results of this study will lead to. Still, the news is exciting for those wanting to know about methods prevent the instances of HIV/AIDS. It also affects the drug addiction community and could help lower the risk of contraction of HIV/AIDS from dirty needles.

Regardless, the most important way to take care of yourself is by finding ways to overcome your addiction and not making reckless mistakes in the first place.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125

How to handle when your spouse keeps bringing up your past

 How to handle when your spouse keeps bringing up your past


Coach Heidi Bilonick McGuirk tackles the issue: How to handle when your spouse keeps bringing up your past.

Dear Coach Heidi,

My question is; I have been in recovery for approximately 8 months. While I was in active addiction, I did a lot of things that I’m not proud of that hurt a lot of people, especially my husband. Recently I received a tax form showing that I had taken a large amount of money from my retirement account that I truly don’t remember doing. My husband is not happy and I can completely understand. The problem is this: I get mad at him for getting upset with me. Like, he tells me I should be very thankful that he still wants to be with me given the horrible things that I have put him through when I was in my active addiction. I continued to hurt him when he is the one I love dearly. How do I reply to him when he brings up things I did without getting mad at him? I have told him I’m sorry a million times. This is now affecting every aspect of our 5 year marriage, including our sex life.

What advice can you give me?

Thank you,



Dear C,

I absolutely LOVE this question! And I love it because it’s a question so many people recovery have. Kind of like asking: How long do I have to pay for my sins? Or how long do I bite my tongue? Or how many times do I need to say “I’m sorry.” My take is coming from a place of having almost 20 years of coaching couples into happier relationships. So, I would ask you, how can both of you decide to act more loving towards each other and assume the best about each other?

For example, if you were to assume the best about your husband while wondering why he brings up the past or why he tells you that you are lucky he stuck it out, what is his POSITIVE intent? In other words, if you were to look through a loving lens, WHY would he be doing that? Most of the time, loved ones remind us of the past because they truly believe that by doing so, we will be shamed enough not to repeat old patterns. They don’t want us to forget the hell they went through so we don’t forget and “do” it again.

This thinking is flawed in so many ways. First, addiction is a disease, not a character defect. And no one is choosing it.

The other issue is that you are getting mad at him and then feeling bad for being mad. Perhaps, instead of telling him how you feel, you are acting out in other ways, like withholding sex. An important lesson to learn in recovery is that you are entitled to your feelings. Feelings are a great way by which to measure the health of your relationship. Think of them as a kind of barometer that measures the stress, pressure, and overall ‘temperature’ of the relationship.

Remember, your anger is legitimate however, make sure that you are not making yourself a martyr or victim of your feelings. Instead, take ACTION by initiating open communication about your feelings. Being passive-aggressive or acting like a martyr won’t cut it.

Talk to your husband. Let him know how the constant reminders make you feel. Take responsibility for how these feelings then have you act out in certain ways. But at the end of the day C, your feelings are YOUR feelings and no one can MAKE you feel anything without your permission. You’re the one who decides to get angry. Could you get grateful instead? I say ‘yes.” By focusing on where you are when he focuses on where you’ve been.

So many choices! That’s the beautiful thing.



Heidi Bilonick McGuirk is a Master Certified Relationship Coach.  She has consulted for several top Matchmaking and Dating companies around the world. She has served as the Director of Operations for the Matchmaking Institute in NYC and has been in private practice for over a decade. She is one of the Life and Relationship Coaches here at Palm Partners and has supported many clients in their pursuits of sobriety, health and happiness.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Inside the Mind of An Addict

Inside the Mind of An Addict

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

By Cheryl Steinberg

I think this article will hit home for anyone out there stuck in active addiction as well as for those who are recovering from addiction. For readers who are loved ones of addicts or who are fortunate enough to not have their lives touched by addiction in some way, this article should be an eye-opener. Despite popular belief, drug addiction is a way more complicated disorder than just someone wanting to get high.

Here is some insight inside the mind of an addict: what goes through the mind of someone in active addiction.

#1. We could stop

First and foremost, people who struggle with substance abuse and addiction want more than anything to be able to stop. People who have not experienced addiction first-hand might find this surprising. There’s a common misperception that addicts choose to do drugs, even when their lives are crumbling down around them. The reality of it all is that, once addiction takes hold, the person no longer has the ability to choose whether to drink or do drugs; they basically have to. This isn’t to say that the addict doesn’t have the choice to get better, though. More on that later…

#2. Get sober without having to go through painful withdrawals

The most common fear among people in active addiction is that of the painful – physical and mental – of the withdrawal symptoms that they will inevitably experience if/when they decide to get clean and sober. In fact, this is what keeps many addicts from getting help at all or causes them to prolong getting help.

#3. Turn off the obsessive thoughts

The addict mind is bombarded by obsessive thoughts to use a substance or substances. Again, the person most likely wants to stop but, how can they when their own mind relentlessly tells them to score another…and another…and another? It’s next to impossible to ignore these thoughts for long.

#4. Didn’t have to lead a double life

It’s said that being an addict is a full time job. There’s a lot of energy, time, and effort that goes into supporting a drug habit. And, there’s a lot of lying, sneaking around, and stealing that goes along with the addict lifestyle. These behaviors don’t match what’s actually going on with the person who struggles; addicts experience a lot of guilt and shame about having to lead a double life.

#5. We weren’t an embarrassment and disappointment

People in active addiction may seem remorseless but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are well aware that we are disappointing our loved ones – and ourselves. Again, we feel crushing guilt and shame about our drug abuse but are helpless to do anything about it when we are in the thick of it.

#6. We were brave enough to ask for help

It’s a frightening and ego-smashing thing to ask for help. And it means having to come to terms with the fact that we do, indeed, have a real problem. No one wants to admit that they’ve lost control of a situation (or of themselves).

#7. We weren’t on this emotional rollercoaster

Being in active addiction is like being a hormonal teenager all over again. But worse. We experience mood swings and seem to be hyper-sensitive to anything others say and do. We’re also irritable and depressed. This is not a fun place to be. And we notice how our loved ones seem to have to walk on eggshells around us. We don’t want that.

#8. We didn’t continually hurt our loved ones

Again, we’re aware of the disappointment we cause our loved ones to feel. We also carry all that weight of guilt and shame of constantly hurting them. We don’t want the only consistent thing about us is that you know you will be hurt, lied to, manipulated, and let down…once again.

#9. We could feel happiness again

Feeling content and happy is a distant memory to the addict who struggles. Even when we’re high (and theoretically feeling good), we still hate ourselves. In my active addiction, I had forgotten what it was like to experience genuinely hearty belly laughter.

#10. We could crawl out of our dark hole and live again

If it isn’t clear by now, let me sum it up. Being caught up in the vicious cycle of addiction is a happiness- and soul-crushing experience. It seems as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and that we are fated to live out our days in this dark and lonely place. As you can imagine, we want more than anything to find a way out and enjoy life again (or for the first time!).

Substance abuse disorder and drug addiction are devastating diseases that ruin lives and tear families apart. No one wakes up one day and decides that they want to embark on a journey that will destroy themselves and others. It is human nature to want to preserve life. That’s why addiction can be so baffling, especially to those who witness it second-hand. If you are struggling or know someone who is, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We are here, day and night. Addiction doesn’t rest; neither do we.

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