• Marty Lythgoe

Is "Addict" a Bad Word?

As problems with alcohol or other drugs progress, those using and abusing these substances usually develop a distorted view of their circumstances and of themselves. As the progression goes from bad to worse, self-perception might progress something like this:

  • I'm just a guy who likes to party.

  • I'm simply a "wild and crazy guy."

  • I'm a victim of bad luck, bad choices, bad circumstances, bad upbringing, etc.

  • It's too bad, but I've made my bed and now I have to lie in it.

  • I'm just a leopard who cannot change his spots.

  • I'm an old dog who can't learn new tricks.

  • Once an addict, always an addict.

Any or all of these perspectives, besides being aspects of the denial system, are based on false or incomplete information. These views of self breed hopelessness and only serve to perpetuate the self-destructive behavior associated with substance abuse. It was not until I could acknowledge that I was an addict that recovery became possible. There is a movement afoot that seeks to destigmatize addiction (a good goal) by using what is referred to as "person-first language," referring to addicts as "people with substance use disorders" or "ineffective behaviors." I raise the question of whether using the term "addict" is truly fostering the stigma. Or is this softening of language the same kind of minimization that has served to keep the addiction alive?

It was my identification as an addict that made possible all the other ways of identifying myself that I can use today:

  • I am a husband, a father and a grandfather.

  • I am a Christian.

  • I am an internationally certified addiction counselor.

  • I am a fair cook, a reasonably good friend, and a tolerable neighbor.

  • I am a member of Avenue Community Church in Ventura.

  • I am a member of the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame.

  • I am a lover of my dogs and a good pet owner.

  • I have a great sense of humor, but I am a lousy joke teller.

  • I am a Dodgers and Lakers fan.

  • I love USC football and UCLA basketball. For that some call me a traitor, but I think of myself as a hybrid.

I have had a private addiction counseling practice for the past 10 years after founding and serving as Program Director of an outpatient treatment center for 25 years. Needless to say, I am not the same person I was before beginning my recovery. My new and improved view of myself is a direct result of my recovery. And my recovery began as a direct result of admitting that I am an addict. I find no stigma in that.


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© 2018 Marty Lythgoe