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Don’t Tell Me I’m “Clean.” I Was Never Dirty

Don’t Tell Me I’m “Clean.” I Was Never Dirty

We need to stop using the most offensive addiction recovery term out there. There are many different terms for recovery from drug or alcohol addiction:

  • Getting sober
  • In recovery
  • On the wagon

But today, I want to focus on a term for recovery that I think should be considered offensive to people who have recovered from addiction or those who are looking to recover. That term is: Getting Clean. At Vertava Health, we believe what doctors are saying about addiction being a disease. We know that people don’t actively choose to alienate their friends and family, or lose their jobs, or lie, or steal, or be on the streets doing whatever else it takes to get drugs and alcohol. No one wakes up in the morning and starts their day with those scenarios as their goals.  No one thinks that the first time they have to take painkillers or the first time they have a beer that their brain can be altered in a way to cause the disease of addiction. NO ONE does this.  No one would choose addiction. Think about that. It is our stance that because addiction IS a disease – that we should raise the dark veil of negativity surrounding addiction.  We should talk openly about our disease and how we overcame it. We should be comfortable saying this happened to us. We all know this is an uphill battle.  We’ve been told to be anonymous.  We’ve been told to be ashamed of ourselves. We’ve been told addiction is our choice and our fault. And then let’s add to that when we finally take the steps to get into drug or alcohol rehab that we are then told we are, “getting clean.”  Which – the last time I checked – implies that one was dirty, foul, unclean or filthy. Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol is not dirty or unclean.  Those terms did not cause the addiction and getting rid of them does not cure it. Addiction – like cancer or diabetes – is a sickness.  An illness.  A disease.  Do you call someone with cancer dirty?  Is treating diabetes getting clean?  No, you don’t say that to a person with cancer, and you don’t say that to a person who’s treating their diabetes. Why? Because treating diabetes is considered getting healthy, recovering from cancer is called beating cancer.  These are positive terms and people are lauded for their successes in battling those diseases. I think we should ban the term, “getting clean,” when it comes to drug and alcohol rehab.  I think we need to strike it from our addiction vocabulary.  Someone who is healing from the disease of addiction is getting healthy.  Someone who is recovering from the disease of addiction is beating addiction. It’s time that we change the perception of addiction and addiction rehab.  This disease is not going away and to get it does not mean one is dirty or is deserved of it.  There is no reason to judge a person who was addicted any differently than one who was sick with cancer. So let’s stop doing that.  We can start just by striking the term, “getting clean,” when referring to being a survivor of the disease.  We can start by correcting those who use that term and explaining why it’s offensive.  We can start by owning our own stories and respecting the stories of others. We are not “getting clean” from drugs and alcohol. We are rising, we are fighting, and we are surviving the disease of addiction. Thanks for reading and be safe, Julie