The third week of November is Addiction Awareness Week in Canada, led by the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). Awareness is key in identifying issues surrounding awareness such as stigma, indifference, misunderstandings, and community outreach. Many individuals reading this right now have been affected by addiction, either in their own lives or someone they know, but it is not often a topic that people feel comfortable discussing. The more nuance that is introduced into the conversation by initiatives like National Addiction Awareness Week, the more people can engage and discuss this complicated issue.
The theme of this year’s awareness campaign is A Community of Caring. This is where awareness starts: in your community. There are ways you can learn more about addiction by simply talking to people who have been affected by it. Listen to their stories, ask questions, and try to expand your viewpoint on what addiction can look like, both on an individual basis, and in your community.
Awareness brings about change, which is something that simply must happen when it comes to understanding addictions. Many of us have a very limited view of what addiction looks like: a person living on the street, passed out, clearly on drugs and likely helplessly addicted. But this is entirely too narrow a view, and fails to take into account many factors involved in the wide scope of what addiction is and who it can affect. Addiction can look like everyday people in our lives. Our friends. Our loved ones. Our children. Someone you know who excels at their job and comes home every day to drink half a bottle of whiskey to “help them sleep” is addicted. There is no one face of addiction, which can make it difficult to know when to say something to those in your life you may be concerned about.
Suffering from addiction can be an incredibly lonely existence. A secret kept for months or even years can slowly eat away at you, leading to isolation and fear. Reaching out to community resources can be difficult, but ultimately be the one thing that will really help in starting the path to recovery. If someone you know is dealing with addiction, passing along information on these resources can often allow them to realize that help is out there and that there is hope of recovery. Oftentimes, we write people off if we know they have an addiction, or tell ourselves it isn’t our business to interfere. In these situations, our words really matter, and saying something could be a turning point in someone’s life. Mentioning addiction is difficult and requires tact and listening, so be prepared to sit down and have an honest conversation with them and provide resources if necessary. The person may be in denial about their addiction, or be defensive, but your concern can still make a difference and get them to see it from another perspective.
As we approach Addiction Awareness Week, take a minute to consider the points brought up in this blog. What can you do to bring awareness to this issue? What are your assumptions and biases around addictions, and how can you challenge them? Who can you open up to if you yourself are struggling? Below are resources you can use to continue the conversation, and of course, Walmsley is a great place to start if you need to talk to a professional about anything addictions or mental health related.
Robert Baker, RCC
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction:
Addiction Center Canada:
The Canadian Association of Mental Health:
Addictions Resources for BC:
Addictions Resources for Alberta: