In our society, when we view addiction as an issue of moral weakness or lack of willpower, we shame and stigmatize, delaying the treatment that could save someone’s life. For Xavier, realizing that her addiction was not the result of moral deficiency helped her fight her addiction and find purpose in her life.
Genetics and environmental influences both play a major role in substance use disorders. Both of Xavier’s parents had substance use disorders and died early in their addiction. Throughout her childhood, she had an unstable support system as she moved between various aunts and uncles, never really feeling like she belonged. The addiction was always lurking, and her dependence on mind altering drugs started early in life.
“I’m a good person, but at the same time I suffer with the disease of addiction. That disease made me not know who I was as a person. I couldn’t be a mother, I couldn’t be a sister, a niece,” says Xavier. Before coming to Homeward Bound, she lived for drugs and had lost sight of who she was and what she loved.
Before coming to Homeward Bound, she lived for drugs and had lost sight of who she was and what she loved.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as “a chronic disease similar to other chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.” In fact, just like cardiovascular disease, addiction has contributing environmental factors, such as stress, early sexual and/or physical abuse and drug availability.
Removing the blame and treating addiction as a disease not only allows researchers to find treatment methods grounded in science, but also improves the self-esteem of those who suffer from this disease, and gives them hope. They start to understand that their symptoms have an underlying, biological explanation, one which can be managed with medication.
Xavier finally got the treatment she needed at Homeward Bound, which allowed her to find herself again. After having been through multiple recovery centers, her friend brought her here. “They didn’t discharge me to the streets, and that’s what I needed. [They] were like a one-stop shop and that was everything for me.”
“They didn’t discharge me to the streets, and that’s what I needed. [They] were like a one-stop shop and that was everything for me.”
Now two years clean, Xavier is back in her children’s’ lives and works to help others like herself. Currently, she works at Austin Street Center, a homeless shelter, where she manages a case load consisting of others with substance use disorders. As one of the case managers for the Sisterhood Program, Xavier helps women with a dual-diagnosis of addiction and mental illness through the insight she has developed from her personal experiences.
Addiction is a disease, and one that Xavier describes as needing “treatment in the form of meetings, medicine, and therapy.” Changing the narrative around addiction and realizing “it wasn’t a moral deficiency” was deeply impactful for Xavier. The only way forward is seeing and talking about addiction in this light. With this compassionate view of those suffering, we make more room for more healing, and less room for unwarranted blame.
Homeward Bound Inc. is a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit organization based in North and Far West Texas. If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use disorder or having a mental health crisis, please call Homeward Bound at 214-941-3500.