Don’t Call Yourself An Addict

Stanton Peele By: Dr. Stanton Peele

Posted on May 29th, 2014 - Last updated: March 6th, 2020
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It was with great pleasure that I read Meghan Ralston, of the Drug Policy Alliance’s, piece in the Huffington Post, entitled, “I’m Breaking Up with the Word Addict,” in which she wrote:

When we do feel the need to reference a state of disability, challenge or disease when describing a human being, we say something like, “my mother has cancer,” or “my nephew has leukemia.” And we would almost certainly never let that be the only thing said about that person, something that defined them. We do not say or suggest that a person is their challenge. We remember that they are a person first, then if appropriate indicate their challenge as one factor of their existence. . .

I may be in the fight of my life with drugs, but I am not the drugs that I take. I am a fighter, a survivor — I am never merely “an addict.” Please do not destroy the totality of who I am by reducing me to that one word. We retain our full humanity despite our challenges, particularly when our challenges are much deeper than our attention-grabbing drug use might suggest. My days of chaotic substance abuse are long behind me. I am not “an addict” now, and I wasn’t “an addict” then. I’m just a person, who had a period of difficulty, pain and challenge. I battled, I failed, I tried again — just like most people.

Of course, the 12 steps (and the NIDA/Nora Volkow neuroscience model of addiction) give you just such an identity, against which I fight in my Life Process Program. We reject this kind of thinking, expressed in the self-labeling mantra, “I am an addict”. Rather, we start our fight with addiction from two assumptions:

  • every human being is already worthwhile
  • you will succeed best when you feel best about yourself, your potential, and your core value.

You still need to take responsibility for your actions and practice the discipline required to put your life on track. But you are not your addiction; you are a valuable human being whose qualities endure and exceed your addiction. These fundamental differences translate into different helping techniques. Instead of focusing solely on the object of addiction and its all-conquering force, as AA and neuroscience do, The Life Process Program will help you focus on the more important things in your life. You will spend time setting goals for living an addiction free life and you will develop the skills and tools necessary to accomplish those goals.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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