You are an addict… shhhh…

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You are an addict… shhhh…

You are an addict… shhhh…

November 15, 2015

If you struggle or know someone who struggles with addiction you understand the culture of silence that surrounds the topic. There is a shame and guilt that comes along with being an addict. While strides have been made in openly talking about addiction, one cannot deny that it is still taboo to talk about it.

I just finished watching a wonderful film called I Smile Back featuring renowned comedian Sarah Silverman. While comedy is her speciality, this movie is far from funny. It is a serious depiction of what it is like to live with mental illness and addiction. Silverman’s character, Laney, suffers from an undisclosed mental illness and battles addiction throughout the movie. The writer and director use Laney’s interactions with other people to show society’s reluctance in openly discussing addiction. The characters are even uncomfortable saying the word “addiction.”

When people suffer from cancer, the community often rallies behind them. During the month of October, you can see pink everywhere, as people unite in support of breast cancer awareness. There is no taboo when discussing cancer. Our society supports and celebrates survivors. But do we do the same for addiction and mental illness?

The answer is no. There are some people who view addiction and mental illness as simply bad behavior. But these people cannot be further off base. Addiction is a disease, with physical implications. Its diagnosable and treatable. And we, as a society, need to do a better job in being inclusive. There shouldn’t be health concerns and mental health concerns. It doesn’t have to be binary. It doesn’t have to be black and white. Mental health and addiction is a public health issue. Plain and simple. It deserves to be talked about and treated in the same way as other diseases and ailments.