Although no one actually says it, there seems to still be a distinct stigma surrounding many discussions on the subject of recovery from substance abuse and addiction. In our current world of mental health exploration and discovery, where the presence of Prozac commercials and Abilify ads now appear to be ‘the norm’, one of the quickest ways to stop a conversation in its tracks is to bring up the topic of addiction. How can a conversation about chemical recovery still evoke hushed whispers, a nudge and ‘that’ look? What will it take to change this surreptitious stance we have?In the early 1980s the war on drugs was in full swing and Nancy Reagan was at the forefront with her motto “JUST SAY NO!” Although it eventually became the platitude at parties as well as on the street, Mrs. Reagan’s campaign did initiate the conversation about the war on drugs and the seriousness of drug use, substance abuse and addiction as a whole. However, the tide quickly changed. Those in Washington as well as in small-town USA encouraged individuals grappling with addiction to be open, honest and authentic about their ‘disease’ yet, in truth, an undercurrent of shame, guilt and distrust was what most individuals were actually living with.  Was this due to the misconception that addiction was a choice and that anyone, at any time, was able to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ and just keep moving forward? (and, just for the record, how exactly does one ‘pull oneself up by the bootstraps’?)We now know that addiction is hard-wired and genetic like many other mental health disorders and physical diseases. Addiction is influenced by both nature and nurture (in DBT, we refer to this as the bio/ social theory). This means that addiction is often passed down from one generation to the next and that the behavior which is modeled in one’s environment by others will often influence one’s current and possibly future behavior and choices. Unfortunately, simply acknowledging the presence of this genetic pattern has shown to be little, if any, help in advancing the discussion and promoting open discourse on the issue of addiction. In fact, acknowledging the presence of a pattern of addiction has, at times, resulted in further feelings of shame and guilt and regret rather than prompting a desire to open up and discuss the matter further.Change happens. And it must. Continuing to shame and blame someone for his/her addiction is tantamount to blaming someone for having diabetes and choosing to eat chocolate cake. Yes, this choice may be a deadly one and yes, this choice may certainly be reckless and irresponsible. And yet it does not deserve the level of invalidation, judgments and labels it often receives. Change comes in the form of education, validation, treatment and above all willingness.  Willingness is an integral piece to the puzzle, which enables us to approach the topic of addiction in a kinder and gentler manner in order to begin to destroy the stigma attached to this baffling and burgeoning disease.