“Addict”: The Label vs. The Word

My dear friend, Ms. Alana at “Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On” posted this morning about her feelings on the label “addict”: “Yes, I’m an “addict”. (I fucking hate that word. Always will. And I’ll probably always fight against it as a defining word for myself.)”

I Can Use the Word, You Can’t Use the Label

Quite perfectly timed in the light of Ms. Alana’s post, my husband and I had an argument about his use of the label “addict” yesterday afternoon.

I mentioned to him that I was going to need more e-juice for my mod; and he pointed out that I seem to be smoking a bit more these days. I explained that I’m trying to quit; but that with all of the other changes I’m going through at this particular moment in time, it’s difficult to try and overcome my nicotine addiction as well.

“Mitch, I’m trying. I really am; but this isn’t an easy one for me to let go of.”

To which, Mitchell said, “Of course not, you’re an addict.”

Ouch. Arrow to the heart, my fathead husband.

While I have no problem using the word to describe myself, my hackles immediately rise to their fighting position when someone else throws the label at me. So I growled back at him, “Nice. Way to use that against me, Babe. Do you have to take every opportunity to remind me of that fact? Like I don’t fucking know I’m an addict?! I have to be reminded?! Seriously?! Jesus!”

We both went uncomfortably silent for a moment after that… until I reminded myself to take a deep breath and re-evaluate my reaction to his offhand comment.

“I’m sorry, Honey. That was an overreaction; but do you realize that you never take the time to reminisce on all of the addictions that I have given up (booze, narcotics, reckless sex)? It would just be nice if you would use that particular term in a less derogatory way from time-to-time.”

“I only spoke the truth of the situation.” Mitchell said through gritted teeth.

“I know, but I’m aware of those particulars of my own personality. I don’t need you to constantly remind me of them.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

Many of us that battle with the demons of addiction struggle with these types of interactions (even within our own heads). The problem resides in the old adage “there are two sides to every coin.” In this case, there is the label “addict” (see no. 1 below) and the word “addict” (see no. 2 below). The Oxford Dictionary demonstrates these opposing viewpoints by defining “addict” two different ways:

  1. “a person who is addicted to a particular substance, typically an illegal drug”
  2. “an enthusiastic devotee of a specified thing or activity”

It Works for Good, as Well as Evil

The label that resides within my personality never works out for anything less than evil… if I drink and/or use, I tend to lose my moral compass and any compassion towards others. I can’t have just one shot of whiskey… once I start, I want the whole damn bottle and the dregs from any others that happen to be lying around. I also have no qualms about spending the rent money on more booze.

The word that resides within my personality, however, often does work out for good. It makes me passionate and determined about the healthy choices I make (i.e I’m an extremely dedicated university student that routinely gets awarded high academic marks). When I put my mind to something (like visiting the gym daily), I’m more likely to stick to the plan than other folks, etc.

This subtle difference is something that I vehemently stress to newcomers in the proverbial Anonymous programs in which I sponsor… because I do take issue with having to introduce ourselves at meetings as “alcoholics” or “addicts” — not because it isn’t true, but because we are so much more than these derivative labels. We are a collection of other beautiful words — woman, strong, survivor, determined, passionate, empathetic (when sober), etc.

Often, in response, newcomers lament that they see very little of these words in themselves; and that’s okay. They’re new, they’re raw, they’re emotional; and often, up until they work with other women in the program, they’ve only been described by those around them in negative terms — manipulative, liar, cheat, not trust-worthy, etc.

This was true in my case; but by surrounding myself with strong females who had decades of sobriety, I learned what I could become; and then changed the opinions of those around me through positive action.

It breaks my heart to read the words in Ms. Alana’s post that I hear many times repeated in the rooms. If you are struggling with a negative addiction, please know that you are not alone. If you feel there is no hope, please know that it is out there… waiting for you to find it. And last, but not least, if you feel as if you will never overcome, please know that if I can overcome, fucking anyone can.

7 thoughts on ““Addict”: The Label vs. The Word

  1. Ah, I cringed a little bit when I read how Mitch referred to you. It’s like a shot through the heart.
    I like that you differentiate the words from the labels. It does feel better than just carrying around a label that doesn’t feel very good. Especially when people feel like they can “use it against us”…even unintentionally.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So true! It’s interesting that I’ve just written a post which I’ll be posting later titled “Labelling.” How we, so often, tend to label ourselves and put ourselves in a dark box.
    Labels are stigmatizing and they don’t give any room for growth.
    Great post! 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you and Ms. Ashley on that; though I had failed to think about either of your perspectives on how they limit us. I thank you both for widening my own definition of labels. The two of you are rock stars, in my book! 🤩

      Liked by 1 person

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