The Power of Language in Recovery

People are raised to believe that words have little power. As children, the nursery rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is echoed over and over again. Truthfully, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Words can play an incredibly powerful role in shaping our psyches, identities, and feelings. In fact, more psychological harm or good can be done in a single conversation than in a lifetime of action without words.
In recovering from an addiction, it is important to remember the power of words in aiding your own recovery process. One of the biggest ways words can play a positive role in your recovery is by using them to humanize yourself. A very large issue with drug use and addiction is the stigma that both carry. Referring to yourself as an “addict” can evoke feelings of acceptance, and legitimately make you feel like you are indeed your addiction. Instead, try saying that you have (or had) an addiction. Likewise, you are not “clean” when you haven’t used a drug, or “dirty” when you have. You are a human being either way, and your cleanliness has nothing to do with your addiction.
Studies indicate that using terms like “addict”, “user”, or “alcoholic” labels individuals, and remove “any distinction of experience.” These terms suggest that if you have struggled with an addiction in the past, you belong to a subset of people that aren’t like others, and that this group is the only way in which you can be defined. In other words, you are not “Sally” or “Michael”. You are an addict or a user. This couldn’t be further from the case. The only difference between someone that may be suffering from addiction and someone that is not is the addiction itself. Eliminating pejorative descriptors like the ones mentioned above is the first step in recognizing this.
Scientists claim that language has always been defined as an evolutionary process in which people group together to make communication more efficient and effective. They continue, however, by saying that this method should not be used when it comes to marginalized populations, as the first and most important aim of communication used to describe these populations must be accuracy.
While it may take a bit for those that aren’t suffering from addiction to catch on, those that have suffered and are currently in the recovery process should be among the first to educate by example. Removing pejorative, stigmatizing words from your vocabulary is one of the best things you can do for your recovery!

Words wield incredible power in recovery, and they are just as powerful when addicted. If you are suffering from addiction, pick up the phone, call Oceanfront Recovery at (877)279-1777, and say these three words: “I need help.” We’ll take it from there.