A well-known figure in Canadian society remarked, “A community’s worth is measured by the way it treats the most vulnerable.” That thought stays with me every day, because I work with gentlemen who suffer from a well-known modern calamity: drug addiction.
When I express this to people I meet, nine out of ten look around to see if someone overheard what I just said. It is evident that we are very willing to offer a momentary gesture of kindness to a stranger, but for someone who actually needs a helping hand—the truly vulnerable—we don’t want to hear about it. This inevitably points to a serious truth: there is a stigma embedded into the reality of addiction and toward those who suffer with it.
“Stigma” is a Greek word which means “a mark made by a pointed instrument.” St. Francis of Assisi suffered from the stigmata—bearing the markings of the passion of Christ on his body. To the unbelievers, these markings were looked upon as disgraceful, which is an essential part of stigma. So what is the stigma of addiction? A person, who has for one reason or another, lost what is essential to his human nature, his freedom. Where is the disgrace in being vulnerable?
At the Caritas School of Life, we provide an environment free of stigma where second and third chances are a reality. There is a communal outpouring of talents and efforts to help restore the broken individual. From the board members down to the frontline staff and volunteers, we invest our entire beings into the souls of those men whom the world has marked and disgraced with their judgment.
I challenge everyone who reads this to raise their voice the next time the topic of addiction comes up to remove the stigma and replace it with compassion and understanding.
And – mention that Caritas will welcome your son or loved one, and he will be treated for who he is—a beautiful human being with inherent dignity who deserves a second chance at a happy life.