My greatest wish is that those who manage to cope with their drug problems should be hailed as heroes. It should not be a negative thing to be an ex-drug addict, because the alternative is so much worse.

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This is what Maria Tvete writes in a debate post on VG.no. She writes that she has struggled with drug addiction for many years. She focuses on the stigma of having substance abuse problems, and the great additional burden this can give. Maria writes: 

It took quite a while before I realized I was sick and needed help. At the same time, it was a defeat and a shame to seek the help offered, much because of society's view of drug addicts.

But it was not just seeking help that was marked by the stigma of society. She tells:

If I win the war, it's so in society that most people will continue to look down on me. I'm still weak. Still a loser. Very few will praise me for my efforts and my courage. Because in most people's eyes, I have chosen my illness myself. Thus, there is no achievement if I manage to fight the substance abuse.

An important point in the post is that it is not just getting along when you have a substance abuse problem. On the contrary, the road back to a normal life is very heavy and long. Maria writes:

It is not just for me to "tighten up" as many people think. The first step is to decide, but then follows a huge job I have to do on my own, and it requires a fairly large support system. The treatment- and support services are perhaps the most important part of achieving the goals I set. 

I'm in treatment now. It is a very long and demanding process. Of course, it takes time to rebuild physically, and some of the injuries can in the worst case be permanent, but it is the mental that takes up the most space and becomes the biggest job. I have to change pretty much everything in life.

Her call is clear for how we should meet people who have fought this battle against substance abuse problems:

Those who succeed have fought a battle most people will never understand. Not only the inner struggle within themselves, but also a struggle against society and the system. They had all the odds against them, but they managed to get up from the ashes and come back to life.

My greatest wish is that those who manage it, those who succeed in coping with substance problems, who turn their whole lives around, they should be hailed as heroes.

 

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