Understanding The Need for Better Addiction Representation
- 1 Understanding The Need for Better Addiction Representation
- 2 What are Addiction Recovery Comics?
- 3 Graphic Medicine in Addiction Treatment
- 4 Popular Recovery Comics for Addiction
- 5 Understanding the Relationship Between Substance Use and Mental Health
- 6 Comics That Address Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
- 7 Where Recovery Comics Fall Short
- 8 Understanding the Addiction Treatment Process
- 9 Finding Addiction Treatment Services and Recovery Resources Near You
Unfortunately, representation for drug and alcohol abuse within the United States is very limited. In many cases, the few examples of substance abuse and addiction treatment that are available are highly stigmatized, often causing more damage than they do to help raise awareness.
For those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, having accurate representations of the hardships they may face as a result of their substance abuse can help humanize these individuals and make their conditions a little bit less isolating.
Furthermore, seeing fictional heroes, heroines, and characters overcoming their drug abuse may also give readers more hope in becoming substance-free themselves. It may also help their friends and families better understand and want to support them in their recovery journey.
What are Addiction Recovery Comics?
One particularly common – albeit still somewhat underwhelming – form of fictional representation of substance abuse is addiction recovery comics books. These typically follow comic book characters as they deal with substance abuse problems and the addiction recovery process.
Of course, because this concept is still so fresh, many comic books that cover the issue of alcohol and drug addiction may not offer extensive insight into the reality of substance use. Rather, many will provide a watered-down idea of drug and alcohol use.
This may end up doing more harm than good, as these comic books and their characters often paint the road to sobriety as a one-and-done effort, rather than a lifelong process requiring constant commitment and effort.
However, despite their potentially flawed portrayals of drug use, addiction recovery comic books still have the ability to bring hope to those struggling with substance abuse in their ability to achieve a healthy and sober life.
Graphic Medicine in Addiction Treatment
Over time, many programs have been developed to humanize the medical field, instilling the qualities of empathy and compassion into what can easily be a strictly clinical profession. One such program is known as graphic medicine.
Graphic medicine utilizes graphic novels, or comic books, as a means of representing the experience of a particular illness or condition, both from the perspective of the afflicted patients, as well as their health care providers.
These graphic novels will explore these conditions from multiple angles, creating characters that represent the people struggling with a particular issue, as well as their affected friends, family, and other loved ones, and those responsible for their care.
In the case of addiction, writers will create a story or world based around a character struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse. The use of graphic images and compelling story-telling can make these stories far more personal than other representations might be able to.
These comic books will often explore how their heroin lives with substance use, what happens when they hit rock bottom, and how they choose to regain control over their life and overcome their addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Popular Recovery Comics for Addiction
As a more recently popularized form of awareness for drug and alcohol abuse, there is not an overwhelming availability of addiction comics today. However, works such as Daniel D. Maurer’s “Sobriety: A Graphic Novel” can offer rich insight into the world of addiction.
Furthermore, while it may be more difficult to find a comic book focused specifically on substance abuse and addiction recovery, there are various stand-alone characters and fictional worlds where these topics are discussed.
This includes those featured within the Marvel and DC Universe comic book franchises, in which these graphic novels feature various heroines and fictional figures that struggle with their own substance abuse problems.
Sobriety: A Graphic Novel
A Midwest Book Award Gold Winner from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association amongst self-help books, “Sobriety: A Graphic Novel” provides rich insight into the recovery journey of five different characters, each struggling with their own addiction experience.
The comic book opens with the character of Larry, a dedicated follower of the twelve steps in addiction recovery used in sobriety programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
He is accompanied in his twelve-step group by Alex, an African, gay atheist who struggles with an ecstasy and heroin addiction; Debby, a young, single mom with a history of addiction determined to achieve sobriety; Matt, a hardened but lonely teenager abusing meth; and Hannah, a high-achiever turned rebellious college student struggling with addiction and bulimia.
Although each character has their own experiences and struggles with substance use, they all share the desire to get and stay sober. In particular, this comic suggests that a twelve-step program can be an effective treatment option for people of all beliefs and backgrounds.
DC Universe Comics
For those who may not be avid Marvel fans, the DC comic book universe also offers a few of their own hero figures and storylines centering around addiction and substance abuse. This includes prominent characters such as the Green Arrow and his sidekick, Speedy.
Oliver Queen, the vigilante and Justice League member known as Green Arrow, is one of the various comic book figures that struggles with alcohol and drugs in both his graphic novels and cinematic adaptations of his character.
The same is true for his apprentice and side-kick, Roy Harper, who also goes by the alias of Speedy. This storyline continues even into his joining of the young hero group, Teen Titans, where his abuse of heroin and other drugs affects the lives of his fellow team members.
There is also a central theme of alcoholism and rampant drugs within the Batman universe; in fact, it is one of the key problems battled by this iconic hero within his home city, Gotham. So much so, that one of the primary villains, Bane, has the majority of his arcs based around drugs.
While in many cases, the Batman comics tend to villainize drug use, there are also instances in which those struggling with substance abuse are portrayed as victims lacking proper access to treatment and recovery resources.
There are various figures within the Marvel comic book universe that struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. The most popular, of which, include Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel).
On many occasions, Tony Stark and Carol Danvers are portrayed as recovering alcoholics within the comics, even attending the same AA meetings numerous times. While their drinking habits are not explicitly mentioned in the movies, comic readers can see an entirely new side of these beloved heroes.
The representation of prominent figures such as Iron Man and Captain Marvel can drastically assist efforts to de-stigmatize and raise awareness of the struggles of addiction. Of course, these are not the only Marvel heroes to battle substance abuse.
Steve Rogers, or Captain America, also experiences a brush with addiction after getting caught in a meth lab explosion in the comics Captain America #372-378’s. After a brief period of drug-induced mania, he is eventually subdued and able to detox off of meth.
Additionally, various X-men members and Spider-Man characters – such as Spidey’s own best friend, Harry Osborn – have plotlines dealing with their struggles with addiction and attempts to achieve sobriety.
Understanding the Relationship Between Substance Use and Mental Health
In many cases, those struggling with addiction began abusing drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate the negative thoughts and feelings caused by underlying mental health conditions; in particular, those that have gone undiagnosed or untreated.
Unfortunately, while this may provide temporary relief from the side effects of their mental illness, this will only make these issues worse over time. In some cases, individuals may end up developing new or additional mental issues as a result of their substance abuse.
Simultaneous mental health and substance use disorders are referred to as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses. Someone with this diagnosis will require a highly comprehensive treatment plan in order to overcome their addiction, as well as its causing factors.
Comics That Address Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
Because of how common co-occurring disorders are within the addiction community, there are a few recovery comics available today that explore the relationship between these two highly impairing types of conditions.
These may include graphic artist Sarafin’s comic book “Asylum Squad,” as well as Darryl Cunningham’s “Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness,” just to name a few.
The first of these discusses struggling with schizophrenia and addiction, while the latter focuses more specifically on various mental health conditions, and the difficulties these may present both in themselves and when seeking help for such problems.
Sarafin’s “Asylum Squad” follows four individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia on their superhero adventures. Based partially on the author’s own personal experience with mental illness and addiction, the comic explores these themes with humor and honesty.
In this graphic novel, the main character struggles with psychiatric issues that were possibly caused by early experimentation with LSD and abuse of her prescribed medications. As her mental health declines, she is admitted into a psychiatric ward.
There, she meets three other patients, each dealing with their own experiences with mental health issues and substance use struggles. Together, they fight back against a pharmaceutical project taking place within their hospital for illegally testing a new drug on psychiatric patients.
Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness
Psychiatric Tales draws from the author’s time working in a psychiatric ward, giving a more personal and sympathetic look into the realities of mental illness. Each chapter looks at a different mental health issue from the perspectives of the affected individuals, their families, and their caretakers.
In more deeply exploring the world of mental health, Cunningham also addresses the ways in which society perceives and reacts to these disorders, often spreading harmful and de-humanizing stigmas around this topic.
Where Recovery Comics Fall Short
While many recovery comics can offer a unique insight into the world of substance abuse, these graphic novels are often written in a way that misses quite a few key components about what it is truly like to struggle with addiction.
For starters, these comics often fail to address that recovery is a life-long commitment and not something that can be achieved in just one or a few rounds of treatment. For many recovering individuals, they must remain consistently dedicated to maintaining their abstinence.
Furthermore, there is a significant gap in the amount of coverage these comics provide on just how much the family members, friends, and other loved ones of addicted individuals are affected by their condition.
Overall, recovery comics can offer a significant source of support for those who have or are currently experiencing a battle with substance abuse. However, they still have quite a lot of room to grow in becoming more inclusive and accurate with their portrayals of addiction.
Understanding the Addiction Treatment Process
There are several professional addiction treatment options available to those struggling with substance use disorders today extending past just that of graphic medicine. For many individuals, the first step in their recovery process will be a medical detox.
This is because many substances will have particularly difficult withdrawal periods. In fact, quitting “cold turkey” can often produce extreme side effects, known as withdrawal symptoms, which can cause a number of complications to the mind and body, including death.
In these cases, a medically-supervised detox program will allow them to be gradually weaned off an abused substance under constant clinical control and supervision, helping to manage and even prevent many of these withdrawal symptoms.
Once this level of care has been completed, many individuals will then move on to receive additional support through inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. Which of these services a person will choose can vary based on several factors, including:
- The type and severity of their substance addiction.
- External home, work, or other personal commitments.
- Financial restrictions and/or obligations.
Because addiction is a very personal disease, a recovering individual’s best path to overcoming their substance use will be to participate in various different levels of care and commit themselves to an integrated treatment plan that can address all of their personal care needs.
This will often include dual diagnosis treatment options, as these can help those struggling with co-occurring disorders address both their addiction and its underlying causes. These treatment services can be provided through both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs.
If you are unsure of what level of care will best fit your recovery needs, speaking with your healthcare provider or an addiction specialist, such as a Find Addiction Rehabs representative, can help you narrow down your treatment options.
Finding Addiction Treatment Services and Recovery Resources Near You
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you will need more than just a few recovery comic books to be able to overcome these habits. Luckily, you are not alone, and help IS available.
At Find Addiction Rehabs, we are dedicated to helping people like you find treatment centers and addiction recovery services that are dedicated to serving all of you or your loved one’s care needs.
Our hotline is available 24/7 to provide you with recovery tools and resources, anytime you need them. So make the right choice and contact us today, so that we can help you take the first step on your path to recovery, where you can achieve a happy, healthy, and successfully sober you!
Charles F. has been an active part of the Florida recovery community for over 5 years. He began as a behavioral health technician at an addiction treatment facility in Ocala, Florida and has since begun training as a Licensed Addiction and Chemical Dependency counselor in Boca Raton. Charles’ passion involves the promotion of recovery and helping spread the hope of recovery to as many readers as possible!