Editorial: End the stigma

Imagine you are are ill with a frightening, painful and debilitating disease. Sometimes you feel better. But then the symptoms flare up yet again — often when you are not expecting it. Imagine the days when you feel hopeful and strong, only to wake up in the middle of the night, fearing the future.

Imagine the loneliness you feel, trying to live your life, succeed and excel and hoping the next day you’ll feel better. Imagine feeling these disease symptoms that you are carrying like a weight upon your back and your heart — and then imagine that you also feel ashamed because of it.

Addiction is an illness. It is a disease — one that is tremendously difficult to overcome — especially alone. William Jones wasn’t alone — he had his parents and his sisters. He had some very close friends with whom he shared his battle against addiction.

“A Little Bit of Mercy…” — A Darien family’s loss to addiction.

But much like many going through these challenges, William and his family kept much of this struggle to themselves. Partially they feared the repercussions — they worried how knowing about William’s battle might follow him later in life as he aspired to a promising law career. They did not want this to define their son. And they wanted to protect his privacy.

Shatterproof is a Connecticut-based nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation addiction causes families. It points out that the stigma surrounding addiction not only is unfair and uninformed — it can actually make things worse. Stigma surrounding addiction causes loneliness, despair and can discourage those fighting addiction from seeking treatment.

The Jones family took an incredibly difficult and courageous stand by challenging this stigma — this silence — and opening their raw, broken heart for all to experience. They did this because they, like Shatterproof, know the only way to make any progress in fighting for the lives of people who were fighting their addiction, like William, is to talk about it.

No one sets out to become addicted. No one chooses this path. Addiction is an illness — a devastating, obliterating, painful monster that leaves destruction and emptiness in its wake. It leaves mothers and fathers and sisters and friends to mourn the loss of someone like William — a young man who deserved, and yearned for, a well-led life that would have bettered us all.

So if you read this story, or know someone who is fighting this devastating battle — and you think to yourself, that’s too bad, but that could never happen to me, or my child, or someone I care about.

Know this —

You’re wrong.

For more information, or to donate to Shatterproof, visit shatterproof.org.