Recently, someone asked why we never use the word addict.

Our answer? Because we are striving to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and avoid negative bias. It is such a negative term and really doesn’t benefit anyone.

Our job is to help our clients, many of whom arrive not knowing who they are and have very low self-esteem and self-worth. They are lost, broken, and in pain. Our role is to help them build themselves up, look at any underlying trauma, heal, and begin to see the good in themselves.

Having experienced life with an addiction for a significant period, we will often have extremely negative self-talk uttering its way through our minds. We rarely know what we like, or don’t like, or even what our favourite colour is. Our identity is confusing to us, or maybe non-existent because in stark truth, the disease of addiction has taken it from us.

That is why The Living Room uses a person-first approach, that reflects an accurate, science-based understanding of the disease of addiction. So, instead of saying you are an addict, you are the problem. (Something they have probably told themselves or heard from others many times.) We say, you are experiencing life with the disease of addiction you have a problem – and we can help you.

So, we would never refer to someone as an addict or an alcoholic, no matter if they are in active recovery, or in active addiction. We also would not call someone an ex-addict or ex-alcoholic. 

And it gets complicated, because you may hear people refer to themselves as addicts, even those with many years of complete abstinence in recovery.

But, whilst someone may refer to themselves as an addict in their own safe social communities such as fellowship meetings, they will do this to help other people in that community that are struggling. It is a way of showing newer people that they relate and identify. ‘I’ve been there, I know how you’re feeling right now.’

It is also sometimes used as a self-introductory term to show humility, that they need to remember their disease, but also share how far they have come in recovery and to shine a guiding light to others. But they always have the choice of anonymity and the option to decide for themselves how they self-identify.

Speaking about stigma is important because if a person feels stigmatised, they will feel even more hopeless than they probably already feel. And this will reduce the likelihood of them receiving treatment. It can also lead to other people feeling fear, pity, anger, and the desire to stay away from people living with the disease of addiction.

It is not a moral failing, it is a chronic but treatable disease that with the right treatment and support, people can lead healthy lives and become valuable members of society, in recovery and beyond abstinence. They can even go on to help others. These people are amazing in our eyes.