Words Matter

The words we use with our fellows in recovery can have many different impacts. Choose them carefully.

I don’t always buy into political correctness, which can devolve into thought/speak control, but neither do I believe in using abusive language.

A recent Zoom meeting with the Addiction Policy Forum shared the following. Some of this makes sense to me, some seems a stretch. Make up your own mind:

Say This                                                                            Not This

*Person with a substance                                           Drug addict

use disorder

*In recovery                                                                      Clean

*Currently using substances                                          Dirty

*Substance use                                                          Substance abuse

*Not engaging with treatment                                    Bombed out

*Return to use                                                                  Relapsed

*Positive drug screen                                                 Dirty drug test

*Medication assisted treatment                           Medication replacement

Words can hurt, sometimes for a lifetime, depending on what’s said and who utters them. I get some of the above tweaks. The Zoom was on fighting the social stigma foisted on and discrimination against recovering people. We all deserve a second chance.

Its funny, many of us in AA got the stigma thing a long time ago. I sobered up (a day at a time) in 1987. In my first year I started introducing myself in meetings as a recovering person, not just an alcoholic and addict. I make my living writing, so words are important. Writer Mark Twain said the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between lightening and lightening bug!

So, with Twain in mind, I thought to myself in those early days, “To say ‘Mark alcoholic and addict’ didn’t make sense since I wasn’t using anymore.” True, there is no cure and once an alcoholic and addict, always one. But, I wasn’t just an alcoholic and addict anymore, I was, in fact, a recovering one. So, that’s what I say. Its more accurate and true and its a self definition that recognizes my new, albeit, daily status. It rejects stigma.

But, to each their own. “To thine own self be true,” it says on AA anniversary medallions. I’ll stick to that.

Uptown House Steering Board & Farewell Crysil D.

I just finished two years on the Uptown House Steering Board. I enjoyed it, am glad I did something to give back, but am ready to move on. Serving was my first post-retirement volunteer experience. It won’t be my last. I’ll keep doing a monthly column here if the board wants me to.

Board Chair Crysil D. is also leaving the board after two years of intelligent, dedicated, thoughtful service. The entire Uptown House owes her a debt of gratitude, especially for all the extra work she put in dealing with the pandemic. Thank you, sister, for leading us through this hard time!