incredible-marketing Arrow

Finding Your Identity in Recovery

Your identity is very personal; you may have more than one identity in your lifetime, and that is okay. Some people wear the term “addict” like a badge and are very proud of what they have accomplished. Some people are tired of dealing with stigma and want that part of their life to be private. Your identity belongs solely to you, and no labels should be allowed from outside yourself. Your journey through substance abuse is unique; no two people walk that road the same way.

Unfortunately, humans like to label people. When it comes to who you are in life regarding substance use disorder (SUD), at any time, and sobriety, it is not okay.

Hopefully, during your time in treatment, you were given the tools to understand what it means to accept yourself and your life journey to that point. As you remain sober, the number one thing to remember is that asking for help if you are struggling with any part of your life is okay. It is okay to fall back on your support system and ask for help, even if it means returning to formal therapy.


SUD is a chronic disease; no one is expected to share their personal medical history about any other chronic condition, and the same rule should apply to this disorder. Labels can serve as a reminder or as a negative. People in recovery seem to fall into two categories and usually describe themself in one of two general ways.

“I Am an Addict in Recovery”

When someone identifies in this way, they use the label “addict” as a reminder that they can slip back into substance abuse at any time. If this sense of identity comes from within, this is perfectly fine. It serves as a reminder that an unwise reaction to one trigger, one bad decision, can lead to relapse.

The “addict” label can be a badge of honor to remind themselves how far they have come and what they have accomplished. It can be said with a sense of pride and as a way to let others in recovery know that they are a safe person for anyone who needs substance abuse help.

An individual labeling themselves this way means that the person who self-identifies as an addict can and will support others in their recovery. It can be an announcement to the world that they did the work, are healing, and are proud of that accomplishment.

“I Am Sober; Don’t Continue to Label Me”

When someone identifies in this way, they are tired of the stigma and don’t want to be seen as their addiction. They generally feel that they have changed their life for the better, done all the hard work and that that particular label no longer applies to who they are and how they live.

They may not want a constant reminder of that part of their life, and they don’t feel like it is something they want to share with everyone. In some instances, it is safer to live this way, particularly if the area they live in has a harsh idea about addiction. It is safer to confine their reaching out for help to a select few in a private way.

How Should You Define Yourself?

The most important thing of all is to seek a definition that is kind and starts from a place of self-love. There is no right or wrong identity in life for anyone; there is only the identity that each individual feels comfortable with. Whatever you feel about your substance abuse journey, you know what your true emotions are about it, and that is how you should present your identity.

Who you were last year may not be the same as who you are today; your self-confidence may have grown, and so may your self-esteem. You may have a whole new positive way to look at who you are. That person is who you should present to the world, no matter what label you give yourself. The “label” matters less than the person you are offering to the world. Nobody is allowed to label you. Period.

How Can I Shape My New Identity?

Once you are in a comfortable place in sobriety, you can start to look inside yourself at who you are from every perspective. Look at the whole picture of the skills and abilities you have found with a kind and loving eye, and recognize the new tools you have to offer yourself and the world. You may find yourself identifying with the following statements, all of which are a part of who you are now:

  • A great parent: you worked hard on your parenting skills and the relationships within your family
  • A talented “____”: in recovery, you may have taken up a new hobby
  • A person committed to recovery
  • Someone who has successfully completed an apprenticeship or job training

Go deep inside yourself and feel proud; look at the new values you have embraced since you stopped abusing substances. That IS who you are now, along with everything else you have learned. Share with the world what you want the world to know. Your sobriety is private; it belongs to you. Whether you choose to share it is up to you. Whatever the choice, you are right in your decision. Be proud of what you have accomplished, and communicate it your way.

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic disease that changes the chemicals within the brain. Negative labels imply that this disease of the brain is shameful. Using this outdated and negative thinking supposes that SUD is a “choice,” a behavior that can be controlled without medical help or by sheer will. No other chronic medical problem shares this stigma and shame. Someone with SUD does not deserve less respect and privacy than someone with any other chronic medical condition. Labels in life are generally unfair, but anyone with any illness should never be labeled. People with SUD can identify themselves in any manner they wish, just like everyone else. Finding your identity in recovery can empower you and improve mental wellness. Call The Guest House at (855) 483-7800 to learn how we can help support you throughout finding your identity in recovery.