There are certain words I can’t bring myself to use. They are derogatory terms that describe a person’s race, religion, sexual preference, or country of origin. They are words that would make any person with a kind heart clutch their pearls up in arms at the use of such filthy and ignorant language.
I myself have used similarly ugly words to describe myself and my friends. “Drunk” (dry or otherwise,) “junkie”, “crackhead”, “stoner”, “dope fiend”, “pill popper”, and “coke head”. These words used to easily roll off my tongue when I was using, because at first it was funny to me. “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings, drunks go to bars.” I repeated that so often I had convinced myself that my situation was funny. It wasn’t. Those words were funny to me, but there was no way I would ever have called myself what I am.
I am an addict.
Those four words were so shameful to me, but calling myself a “dope fiend” came easily. It still does sometimes. But I am not a dope fiend, no one is. I am an addict. We are addicts. There is nothing shameful about that. Last week, I heard a woman I adore who has been clean for years call herself a junkie. I was appalled. I asked her why she used that word. She told me she still feels like the junkie lurking in dark corners sometimes. I can relate to that. The disease of addiction still lurks in corners waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and rob me of everything. It still wants me to laugh at myself, before you get a chance to.
The disease of addiction wants me to refer to myself in only derogatory terms, to keep that self-hatred in the forefront of my mind, because as long as it is, my next hit, drink, pill, or snort isn’t far behind it.
So, I am gonna work really hard to not use those ugly words for a while. I am gonna work really hard to see myself the way Julie sees me, or the way my two-year-old daughter sees me. Because while calling myself an addict no longer causes me shame, it doesn’t feel right to use those other words anymore. Being clean means I don’t have to shame myself anymore, and I certainly do not want to shame another addict into secrecy with my poor choice of words.
This post originally appeared on Sober Mommies in December, 2013.