I frequently hear people in the recovery community talk about ‘breaking stigma.’ You may have heard this term bandied about, too. And it’s a fair wish, of course. But it is phrased in the negative. And it is vague. This often happens in activist groups. When someone wants to change something, they will be about being against that thing they wish to change. The problem is, this approach rarely works.

Mother Teresa said, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

I like to think I have a similar approach when it comes to breaking stigma in addiction recovery, or stigma against those who are addicts. We need to have an intelligent stance in these conversations.

Another quote I like states, “The best revenge is to live a good life.” And that is the tool I suggest employing when it comes to effectively breaking stigma.

I often say that your success is a form of service, and it’s true. You will help the most people if you yourself are living a good life. If you are happy. If you are living on-purpose. You can’t help other people when you’re unhappy, when your well is dry, when you are the one in need of helping most of the time. By getting clean and getting on-purpose, you are opening the doors to a whole new world – a world in which you can choose to be the kind of person you want to be, living the life you always wished before falling into addiction.

Pretty soon, your family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances will be noticing a new you. Something is different about that guy or gal. Your habits are starting to reveal themselves in your successes and in your happiness with life. That is something you can only earn, not buy. And that is how you – how we – will break stigma.