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Shedding the Negative Label of “Addict” in Recovery

As we move through our recovery, there are sometimes things that can still threaten to hold us back and impair our healing. One of the threats to our well-being is overly self-identifying with the label “addict.” While it’s important to recognize that we struggle with addiction, admit our addictions, and be unafraid to call ourselves addicts, holding on too tightly to the label can actually be detrimental to us.

Because of the misinformation and stigma still surrounding addiction, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding around it. Addiction is still demonized, and addicts are still stereotyped as lazy, immoral, criminal, shameful people. We find ourselves being judged and ostracized, by our communities and families, for a debilitating illness we’re doing our best to fight. We can feel totally disheartened and demoralized by this rejection. When we need support and acceptance, sometimes we’re met with the opposite.

Many of us take on the stigma surround addiction as if it were ours to carry. We internalize it and believe it to be true. We look down on ourselves. We have low self-esteem. We lack self-confidence and self-worth. We use the label of “addict” to define us, focusing more on our illness than we do our capacity for healing ourselves. We start to identify with the negativity associated with addicts. We develop limiting beliefs about ourselves, that we are wrong for wanting compassion, that we have no right to ask people to forgive our wrongs or understand our struggles. We develop feelings of self-hatred and self-rejection. We form self-defeating habits and behaviors. We’re filled with shame, regret and insecurity.

When we hold on too tightly to the label of “addict,” we fail to see the complexities we hold as unique individuals. We lump ourselves in with a group of addicts who we start to see as inferior to non-addicts. We revere healthy people to the point of looking down on addicts. Our goals of sobriety, while important to our recovery, are full of self-disparagement. We beat ourselves up for having been addicted in the first place. We see our challenges not as spiritual tests that prepared us for our transformation and evolution but as signs of our moral failure and inadequacy. We’re so hard on ourselves that we don’t stop to congratulate ourselves for all of our progress. We don’t commend ourselves for taking the hugely important step of reaching out for help. We withhold our admiration from ourselves, choosing only to see ourselves as successful when we’ve reached a certain milestone in sobriety and not a day sooner.

The truth is, we’re successful the very first day we ask for help. We’re strong, courageous and resilient. We’ve been tested time and time again, and now we’re finally stepping into our power and doing what’s best for ourselves. We’re finally making good decisions for ourselves and prioritizing our well-being. If we self-identify only as addicts, and not as all of our other wonderful attributes, we downplay our strength. We minimize the greatness of our accomplishments. We belittle ourselves. This self-disparagement holds us back. We haven’t yet shed our toxic, self-destructive ways of thinking. We haven’t fully come to love, support and accept ourselves. We don’t feel proud of ourselves when we should. We don’t hold ourselves in high regard when we absolutely should.

Shedding the label of “addict” means replacing it with another, more helpful label, “recovering addict.” This new way of referring to ourselves and self-identifying reflects the hard work we’re doing. We’re finally confronting deeply rooted issues and years of toxic patterns. We’re getting the help we need. We’re eliminating harmful habits and distancing ourselves from unhealthy relationships. We’re learning how to prioritize our health, how to care for ourselves, how to finally be good to ourselves. We’re learning the importance of self-care, spiritual practice, and mental and emotional wellness. All of this work should make us feel proud, fulfilled, and excited for what’s to come.

Our choice of words reflects our beliefs. When we focus too heavily on calling ourselves addicts, our energy is directed disproportionately towards the negative limiting beliefs we’re holding onto about ourselves as addicts, the shame, self-rejection and regret, the insecurity, the disappointment we feel. We’re telling ourselves that we don’t believe we can recover. We’re telling ourselves that our lives will always be controlled by our addictions. We’re essentially telling ourselves that we’re not strong, courageous or resilient. We call ourselves addicts with all of the spite and judgment that other, unsupportive people unleash on us.

It might serve us to let go of the term “addict” unless we’re also simultaneously highlighting our strength, our journey, the fact that we haven’t given up. We might feel more fulfilled, more confident, more self-loving if we infused the ways in which we self-identify with more light and love. Self-identification is a huge part of our energy, and it is with our energy that we manifest our circumstances. We might continue to perpetuate patterns of dependence if we’re more focused on that dependence than we are on the process of freeing ourselves from it. We might continue to think of ourselves as being unable to recover, until we start self-identifying in ways that highlight our ability to recover. Our beliefs reinforce and support our goals, or they detract from them and derail them. What we believe about ourselves, and how we self-identify, can make all the difference in whether or not we are recovering addicts, or just addicts.

The Guest House Ocala provides unparalleled, premier-quality treatment to those who suffer from self-defeating behaviors brought on by trauma and its underlying issues. We are uniquely equipped to help our guests heal from trauma-induced substance abuse, process addiction, anxiety or depression in a safe, comfortable and confidential setting. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.