Double Standard Stigma

Please welcome MaryBeth Cichocki to our blog and visit her at

As the mother of an addict who overdosed, I’m always saddened by some peoples reaction when I tell my son’s story. Well, he was an addict they say. He did this to himself they say, giving me the feeling that in their twisted minds it’s ok that he died. Almost like he deserved it and why am I so surprised? People who use drugs usually die if they don’t get help and quit. Like it’s no big deal when just your average addict dies. The stigma of what an addict is resonates through many conversations I’ve had since my son died.

People look at me like oh well sorry about your luck. Like my son was a useless, unproductive, disposable human being. Not the thoughtful, funny man that he truly was who just happened to have a horrible disease.

My question is why is this stigma mostly associated with addicts from certain socioeconomic classes. Why did no one point the finger at Michael Jackson, he had an addiction problem. There was no one in the media saying he deserved his fate. Everyone went into immediate mourning over a beautiful life cut too short. Everyone blamed his doctor and the lawmakers went for an immediate arrest. The music world did amazing tributes to his talent and the world watched as his grieving children said a heart breaking good bye to their loving father. Please don’t get me wrong. I loved his music and talent and mourned for his family. My son was heavy into his addiction when Michael died and I used his death to scare my son into rehab.

Its the same thing for all Hollywood. Heath Ledger died in his apartment from the same deadly combo of drugs that my son used. Once again everyone expressed sadness and shock at another talented life cut too short. Never stating that he had enough money to get help anywhere in the world, yet this disease was stronger than his will to fight. Never heard the addict word. Just an unfortunate accident.

It’s the same for Whitney, Cory and Philip and all the other rich and famous people who die exactly the way our children have died. Drug Overdoses. Yet there are no negative statements or publicity. Public reaction is one of shock, pity and sadness. No one says oh well they were addicts they did it to themselves. No one shuns the families afraid to be associated with the leftovers of the addict. These grieving families are treated with respect and kindness. No talking behind closed doors. In the world of rich and famous it’s just an unfortunate tragedy.
How can a persons wealth and standing in this world make such a difference in how they are judged. An addict is an addict whether you live in Malibu, The Hampton’s or a middle class neighborhood in any state in this country. This stigma should not be custom tailored for one group of people and not for another.

I’ve watched both Johnny Depp and Joaquin Phoenix show up for interviews on late night tv completely stoned. Did anyone make then feel dirty or disposable. Nope, the audience and the show’s host just thought it was the funniest thing ever. I watched in anger thinking what a pitiful society we have become to think being publicly drunk or stoned is acceptable depending on
who you are. If anyone in the audience was displaying the behavior that was being displayed on stage I’d bet security would be called and then the police. Since when does who you are dictate what acceptable behavior is.

My hope is that one day society will stop accepting overdose deaths as a tragedy for some and a self inflicted choice for others. No one deserves to die from an overdose. Examples need to be set that no matter who you are there is nothing funny about addiction. The double standard must stop and every addict should be perceived as someone with a chronic sometimes fatal disease.

Until society changes its perception of addiction and realizes that it is a disease that knows no boundaries, beautiful people will continue to die. Rich and famous or poor and unknown it really doesn’t matter. Like I said, an addict is an addict. All dying of the same demons.



About Marybeth Cichocki

I'm a registered nurse who lost my son to addiction. I started writing about my experience as Matts mom during this crazy time. I also write a blog, telling my personal journey with Matt.
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7 Responses to Double Standard Stigma

  1. Tim McQuade says:

    My deepest sympathy to you. I am a recovering alcoholic and so are my 2 brothers. We are sober by Gods grace. There is no difference in my family and yours, only that it is a family disease and we all suffer from it. God Bless.


  2. Deb Warhurst says:

    So sorry for your loss. My son Alison died of an overdose, 2 days after his 22nd birthday. The police said those exact words, he did it to himself. I begged them to look for who sold it to him. He wasn’t important enough. I agree with everything you stated. Thank you & have a wonderful day!
    Seth’s Mom, Deb


  3. Donna Bell says:

    My heart heard every word you wrote. It’s an illness that has no boundaries – rich, poor, famous or an everyday person – I think those that are the cruelest in their judgement have never experienced what it’s like to have a loved one caught in the spiral of any kind of addiction – watching someone self destruct is agony – I hope with all my heart that one day the world will look differently & react with the same compassion for all


  4. Christina says:

    My straight A student turned drug addict daughter was called “stupid” by some very close family members. Such a spiral of misunderstanding.
    I’m so sorry for your loss. I understand everything you said.


  5. G says:

    You can lead a horse to water , but you can’t make it drink. My son is also in the same boat


  6. Patrick says:

    I am a recovering addict and I totally understand what you are trying to say but I don’t understand is why you are surprised. Everything is different for the rich and famous in life, why not death? Although I bet your wrong, I bet that behind closed doors, that we middle class Americans don’t have access to, that the other Hollywood elite or whoever are shaming the addict for being an addict and I bet you they are saying ” well (s)he was an addict what do you expect?” Of course you won’t see that on the news or in an ‘in memory of’ at the end of an award show but people are people, rich, famous, poor, unknown, white, black, citizen or addict people are people and I guarantee you the same things are being said there behind that privileged door that we know nothing about as are being said here in middle class America. The difference is the door it’s being said behind opens to a bigger home and nicer things not bigger hearts and nicer people! It’s all a shame here there and everywhere! I have watched over the past 6 or so years as this epidemic crept in and created chaos and continues to wreak havoc here in the outskirts of Boston, Ma. and I would have to sit down with pen and paper and think hard about how many of my friends lives have been forfeited to this disease and that is truly sad! So sorry for you and everyone who has lost a loved one to this horrible disease…


  7. carol says:

    Everett overcoming addiction


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