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Is The Word ‘Addict’ A Derogatory Term?

Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.

Is The Word ‘Addict’ A Derogatory Term?

I recently read an article that stated the word ‘addict’ is derogatory. It was suggested instead of referring to an addict, as an addict, we refer to them as substance users, or drug dependent persons. I must admit as I was reading this, I had some energy around it.   For those who don’t know the meaning of addiction, here is a simple explanation. Addiction is repeatedly engaging in any mood altering substance or behaviour, in spite of life damaging consequences. These consequences can be physical, financial, emotional, cognitive, relational, or all of the above. I used to believe an addict was the person you saw out on the streets. The one with no home, job or money. Because I still had all three, I couldn’t possibly be addicted.

But here’s the funny thing about addiction. The person I saw on the streets, was me. Just not yet.

Addiction is the only disease that tells you, you don’t have it. So when exactly did I become addicted? Was it my first toke? Or when I started drinking my face off? Or was it when I began using Tylenol three and Percocet? Maybe it was the cocaine I dabbled in? Can you be an addict if you only snort cocaine? I didn’t think so. Perhaps I crossed the line when I stopped snorting cocaine, and started smoking it. Does smoking crack make me an addict? Nah, not me. Besides, addicts use needles, and I never did. You can see how this goes. I didn’t smoke crack every day. I only smoked it when I had money. Therefore I couldn’t be addicted. If I wasn’t addicted, I wasn’t an addict. Mind you, when I wasn’t smoking crack, I was using other substances… But hey, I wasn’t addicted to them. They simply made me feel better. I didn’t really need them. I just liked them. Of course, if I couldn’t get them, I’d be phoning my family asking for help. I made up a lot of stories – lies all lies – to keep them giving me money. Are you getting the picture yet?

I think I avoided the truth because honestly, the truth scared me. I couldn’t possibly be an addict, because those people, were very sick!

And then the day came that I couldn’t get out of bed. With no drugs, or alcohol and no one around to get them for me, I laid there. Two days later, I got up. Guess what the first thing I did, was? If you said call for help, you’d be wrong. I never called for help, because honestly, I didn’t believe I was an addict. Besides, I still had a bed to lie in. The fact that most everything else was gone, was beside the point. Addiction is an illogical, delusional, and dishonest, disease. I was losing things faster, than I could get them back. But still, I continued to rationalize, justify, minimize and blame my situation, on others. I had a moment of clarity before I became that person who was homeless, on the streets. I was lying in my bed again – by now I was doing a lot of this – when it occurred to me. Oh my God, I don’t have the flu, I’m addicted! The idea was horrifying, but it wouldn’t go away. Had I done something about it then, things would never have gotten as bad, as they did. But I didn’t, for two reasons. One, my boyfriend came home from work and two, delusion kicked back in. I gave strict orders to the man I claimed to love, to go out and find something to make me feel better. Never mind the poor guy had been working all day and had barely gotten in the front door. None of that mattered. What mattered most was me and my need to get high.

The truth was – I was an addict – and had been, for a very long time.

My life changed the day I stood up in front of other people at a meeting and said it out loud, for the very first time. My knees were shaking and my voice wobbled. But I owned it. I – owned – it. As long as I ran from the word. It – owned – me.

Each time I said it – my name is Lorelie and I am an addict – I grew stronger in my recovery.

I wasted so many years of my life coming to terms with the fact, that I was an addict. As long as I could deny it, I could justify my usage. It was only when I admitted it, that I began to change. I’m glad no one suggested to me back then, that I wasn’t an addict, but merely a substance user. I needed to hear and admit, the truth. Avoiding the term addict, or putting a kinder word to it, isn’t a reality check. We already pretty up our addiction. Please don’t help us. If you find the word addict offensive, try attending a twelve step meeting. Listen to recovering addicts as they stand tall and proud, introducing themselves at the podium. Something rather powerful and beautiful happens, when you tell the truth. Freedom from the bondage of addiction, is just one of the bi-products. For me personally, admitting I’m an addict is the most courageous thing, I have ever done. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 844-470-0410.