How to help loved one overcome shame and the stigma that the label "addict" brings



Good Evening, friends!

Got a question this evening.

If you read my story, I’ve been with my partner almost 30 years, only discovering he was an addict three months after our marriage. For the first 10+ years, I truly believe that Matt really did not want to seek sobriety. He would do some crazy things. However, for the last 5+ years, I truly believe that Matt desperately wants to be “normal” (whatever that is) and sober. He was clean for an amazing 3+ years recently until he relapsed out of the blue and totaled the car he paid for so promptly by himself. Further, in our early years, I believe Matt’s lies to me were just because he liked being high. Now, I truly believe he lies because of deep shame and disappointment in himself. This shame and disappointment within himself time and time again results in another relapse. When we got together at 16, Matt was always under the influence of something, but somehow I was so enamored with him, I did not see this as a red flag. With under the influence, I mean drinking alcohol and/or marijuana. I found out later his opiate use started around the age of 19, which was also the year our first son was born. Matt’s parents are both now deceased, but when we were married, both were HEAVY, but functioning alcoholics. Matt has often recalled how “fun” things used to be when he was younger and all his family members would gather together drinking, laughing and reminiscing. There was not a time when they stopped drinking, that was until they both developed cancer and died within a few years of one another. Matt’s mom was extremely abusive to Matt and his brother when they were young. Although a fantastic lady, she turned into a different person when she was drunk. Matt has attended probably 35 rehabs in the 30 years we’ve been together. When he’s not in rehab, he’s in jail. Before I had him arrested in August, I pleaded with him to go into a dual diagnosis facility. He’s learned a ton in those 35 rehabs but not what keeps him from going back every time. Matt accomplished a ton of stuff during the 3+ years he was sober. He had the respect of all his kids. I completely trusted him and in fact, left most of the financial decisions to him. He was finally able to gain employment and keep it, something he hadn’t done before or since. As mentioned above, he saved up 14k for a Jeep Compass. He attended NA meetings nightly and was even applying to be a certified addiction specialist. There was absolutely no warning signs that day he relapsed. I didn’t blame him and completely encouraged him that this was just a slip and he’d get back to where he was. Still, the shame in himself just kept him relapsing over and over these last 2 years. He always says, “I’m just a loser drug addict” and I know for a fact that these are not being said to be manipulative. I guess what I’m asking is how to I convince him to seek mental health as, knowing him as long as I’ve had, I do believe this plays a large part. And, following up on that question, how to I encourage him to be more curious about any correlation between addiction and mental health without sounding like I’ve got all the answers and am trying to tell him what to do. It’s really important for me to know that HE is responsible for his recovery and that all I can do is encourage. Sorry for the long question!!


Hi @laurenjess75, thanks for the question- this is a common concern. Your post had a question- I believe it is:

We bring to this question to our Dearly Destructed- love- compassion- truth- consistency - curiosity.

We Listen for what they are telling us- how they feel- what helps them want to be well-

Depending on how they answer then we can figure out how we are involved in that… more questions- which tasks are for you to fix? For them? How does each scenario mete out? If you play it forward, what outcome does your person want most to see? What are the hard histories to face that drive that person back into use? How can you find self-absolution? Where are we being bossy? Why do we think we know best? How can we help without pushing them and stealing their self-actualization?

So many more questions! I don’t think there is any one answer. Please help with with your ideas about how to address this concern.


Hi @laurenjess75 - Your partner sounds like a really good guy. I"m sorry to hear he’s in a rough place. The shame and stigma of addiction is so very real and heartbreaking. Thanks for asking this question. If he’s reluctant to seek out mental health in the professional sense, perhaps there’s a way you can encourage him to take care of his mental state in the “everyday” sense. Is there something the two of you enjoy doing together? Taking walks, or going out to eat, playing games, listening to live music? Or are there any hobbies or interests he has that you can help support or encourage more of in his life?

I know it may sound kind of silly to encourage hobbies when your loved one has a serious condition like SUD, but sometimes it’s the little joys that can help us move forward. And even better if it’s something the two of you can do together - then you’re helping to heal your relationship, creating a safe space where the two of you can have honest communication, and help show him that there is always hope.

Tagging @Alair and @mallen0113 here too - they’ve seen success going on regular walks with their loved ones. @Alair @mallen0113 - any words of hope to share regarding your loved ones’ mental health?


Matt is my absolute best friend. He’s absolutely wonderful. I 100% believe he doesn’t want to continue to use. However, I do know that he has a LOT of shame since his last relapse. He accomplished so much over those 3.5 years. Here’s the thing tho… he was on a program called drug court and he had a lot of oversight to ensure he stays on the right path. He was mandated to take drug tests several times a week. He had to meet with his probation officer each week and a judge once a month. If he didn’t comply with their stipulations, he would have faced additional jail time. I think what bothers him the most is the respect and love he received from our kids. They have been so hurt by him over the years and the fact that he was able to gain their trust and affection again was quite an accomplishment. At one point, my now 20 year old son refused to go anywhere with him as every time he did, Matt would drive around spending hours looking for drugs when he promised them he’d take them to the park, Chuck E. Cheese, etc. That was his way to get money out of me… say he would take the kids somewhere fun while I was at work… My sons absolutely despised him and begged me over and over to leave him. But, I couldn’t as I knew the person he was when he wasn’t on drugs. The fact that we are now 47 and this Is still going on bothers me as well as him. I just want to make this time different however I can. I know they’ll be slips. However, these slips he has historically turn into full blown relapses, destroying all of us…