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Is Being Labeled an Addict a Punishment?

Hi, my name is ____ and I’m an addict.

Hi, my name is ____ and I’m an alcoholic.


Since the introduction of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930’s, it has become a tradition and part of the recovery process to identify yourself as an addict or an alcoholic. Considered to be part of step one, which in layman’s terms is admitting that you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol, calling yourself an addict or alcoholic is a full surrender to a fact in life. The fact being that all control and manageability has been lost in regards to the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Some argue against the tradition. Citing neurolinguistic programming, they suggest that the repeated use of the language in calling oneself an addict or an alcoholic is limiting or damaging. If we believe we are such addicts and alcoholics, we might start to believe we cannot recover. We will always be addicts or alcoholics. They see the label as punishing and demeaning.

For most, the label is liberating. Admitting to and embracing the identity of someone who has become chemically dependent on drugs and alcohol is liberating from a past of denial. Denial causes pain and suffering, prolonging the pain and suffering of active addiction. Being labeled, or labeling yourself as an addict is not a punishment. It is a rite of passage and a transformational step in the recovery process.

Terms like mental illness, sick, mentally unwell, and mental health, also raise concern. Addiction is a mental illness. Many who are struggling with addiction also struggle with another mental health disorder. These terms are important because the way that they are defined within the scope of treatment and recovery differs from that of popular or common knowledge. A prevailing stigma of addiction is not that it is a mental health or even a medical disorder, but that it is a moral issue, a criminal issue, and a matter of good versus bad. Addicts are not bad people or immoral people. Sometimes addicts are criminals, because they have committed crimes. Not all addicts commit crimes. People who are struggling with the disease of addiction are sick, mentally, physically, and spiritually. They need to get well.


Castle Craig helps patients achieve optimum health and wellness in mind, body, and spirit. Our proven model for treatment has served over 10,000 patients for over 25 years. Renewing our patients’ search for meaning and sense of purpose in life, our residential treatment programmes have a high rate of success in long term abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line for more information: 0808 256 7958. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006

Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | August 29, 2017