They are just words, or are they more?

Hi my name is  (_________) and I am an addict, alcoholic, compulsive gambler, sex addict, risk taker, over-eater.  These words are repeated daily by millions of people in recovery.  The reason given for saying these things lies in the belief that those who forget are doomed to repeat.  This is decent logic, but is there a better way to achieve the same result?  And when I say better I mean, more effective.  After all, isn’t effectiveness the goal of all that we do in life?

Life is all about the effects.  Our thoughts, words and actions, are the process that we use to create the effects which we desire to experience in our lives.  Not very many people would ever admit to striving for mediocrity, although behaviors may indicate otherwise.  Most people wish for and strive for higher and higher effectiveness in their daily lives.

I’d like to call into question the logic of placing a derogatory statement about ourselves behind the two most powerful words in the human language.  If those of us in recovery are seeking to remain abstinent from the substances and behaviors that we found ourselves unable to control, wouldn’t it stand to reason that we may want to make a more positive and empowering statement about who we are?

In the world of recovery there is most important thing is of course personal sobriety.  In order to achieve and maintain long term sobriety a person either needs to be extremely determined not to use under any circumstances or create a life that is so grand that using would never even be an option.  I recommend the second choice there if you are wondering.  The first option is called abstinence or as the old timers would call it, “dry drunk.”  The second option is called sobriety.

You may ask, what is the difference between abstinence and sobriety?  That is a very good question.  Abstinence is simply taking away the substance like alcohol or drugs and doing nothing at all about the underlying conditions that created the issues in the first place.

Sobriety is a daily practice of self awareness and self improvement.  Persons who take on the role of raising their consciousness about themselves and their surroundings often find themselves to be happy and fulfilled, as well as inspiring to others.  Sobriety in this form is very contagious and people flock to you to share in the energy.

Many words have negative energy as well as negative connotations surrounding them.  Words like, junky, crackhead, drunkard, lush, addict, alcoholic etc, not only have a darkening effect on the user but also projects out that same dark energy to surrounding ears.  Place the words “I am” right before them and we are actually summoning that definition to our reality.

There is a recovery film out now called “The Anonymous People.”  If you get an opportunity to watch this please do.  In this documentary the political history of the 12 step programs is investigated deeply.  Many people have lobbied our politicians to find more funding for recovery programs and addiction treatment facilities. Currently the political answer to addiction is incarceration. Because we can all see how well the prison system is reforming people (sarcasm.)

So the question then becomes how is that one of the greatest public health threats, addiction, isn’t treated as a healthcare issue?  One possible answer lies with the image of those of us in recovery.  When a person who is not in recovery hears one of us introduce our self as, “Hi, I’m Kevin, and I am a drug addict.”  They see a person with a moral deficiency.

The same “normal” person responds differently when I introduce myself in a more positive light.  Hi, my name is Kevin McCormack.  I am a person in long term recovery from the disease of addiction.  For me long term means almost 27 years of continuous sobriety.  In those 27 years I have experienced great things in my life such as a long term job of 20 plus years, continued education, but most of all the respect of my family, friends and self.

This type of shift in our language not only sheds light on the positive in our life which keeps our mind on what is most important, but it also brings about a certain level of respect and admiration from those who do not fully understand the disease of addiction.

Ultimately, personal recovery is goal number one, however, the twelve steps is very clear that “we cannot keep what we have without giving it away.”  How can we give it away if we are hidden away in the basement of a church surrounded by those who have already found it?

Humanity would be well served if we took the anonymity of ourselves a little less literally.  By all means I am not saying we should disclose someone else’s participation in recovery.  But it serves very little good to keep who we are secret.  It is time to stand together and raise the awareness of those in need.  Recovery is possible. A happy, productive life is at your finger tips.  Come walk with us, people in long term recovery who wish to help others achieve the same.

(Kevin McCormack, C.A.d ,is a certified addictions professional and Recovery Advocate.  He is a recovering addict with 26 years of sobriety. Kevin is a practicing auriculotherapist, recovery coach, and interventionist specializing in individual and family recovery.  Kevin has a passion for holistic living, personal awareness training, and physical meditation. You can visit his website Life After Addicton for more information. To connect with Kevin, please email him at Kevin@TheGlobalConversation.com)

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  • Kristen

    Kevin,
    May I ask you something? Do you really believe that someone who has previously been an alcoholic can never revert to being an occasional social drinker after a period of time without alcohol? I struggle with this concept and would like to believe the experts, but addictions are one of my great fears for myself and my family for no apparent reason other than awareness, so have no experience to draw from and I am curious.

    As a side note – I understand AA teach apologising to those we have hurt etc whilst drinking. I have a best friend/casual ex – would have probably been husband by now if he didn’t drink so much, who has never done this nor discussed his behaviors. I don’t think that former addicts realise how important this step is, I have long ago forgiven him for being an idiot (and got revenge without him knowing – as has karma/nature with predictable male problems/sex from drinking in his mid 40’s oops!!) but at this point would never tell him I have forgiven until he accept responsibility and brings it up. Apparently he is over his drinking problem now as he only has three drinks a night and only drinks excessively on Saturday nights! Yeah right!!

    With regard to your topic matter, why do people have to identify as anything. No-one else with problems does. Why not just say “I don’t drink” if the matter comes up?