Addict. Junkie. Drunk. Abuser. These are all terms that society has historically used to describe a person with a substance use disorder (SUD). They are words that invoke negative images and further stigmatize people who experience addiction. In order to change the way society views addiction and recovery, we must change the way we talk about it.
Words matter! When we discuss substance use at TORCH we use language that was adapted from Faces and Voices of Recovery ( https://facesandvoicesofrecovery.org/ ) and popularized by The Anonymous People, a moving documentary about people in recovery from SUD. It tells the intimate and inspiring recovery stories of citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and public figures in order to help others. The individuals in this film introduce themselves as people in long-term recovery. “My name is Joe, and I am a person in long term recovery from substance-use.” They then go on to describe how recovery has improved their lives.
It is important to change the language surrounding SUD and recovery. For too long, addiction has been viewed as a moral failing, rather than a medical condition. Because of this, people who suffer from SUD may not seek treatment for fear of being labeled with negative terms like “addict” or “abuser.” If we can change the way society views addiction, more successful and favorable outcomes are likely for those who suffer from the disease. Reducing stigma and shame begins with changing the way we talk about it.