As we begin to release alcohol from our lives, we are inundated with words laden with underlying messages. Some words bring shame and stigmatize us, others empower and enlighten us. Some just don’t fit. What most people don’t tell you as you embark on this journey is that you are in charge of the language that shapes your story.
Words shape our personal narrative. From the time we are children we are conditioned through words to believe certain things about ourselves. Our language enables us to shape or be shaped by the world we live in. As a child, my mother told me every night, “You are a good person.” To this day, amidst all of my struggles, I still believe these words.
Relapse. Lapse. Slip. Powerless. Self-Empowered. Disease. Disorder. Can never. Will Never. Never have to. Alcohol Free. Sober Curious. Sober. Alcohol misuse. Alcohol abuse. Alcoholic. Addict. Dry. Recovery. Recovered.
There is a dark history to the words we use related to substances. The language dates back to a time when words were taught to us through the lens of the church’s view of morality. The language of addiction and recovery was shaped by a cultural paradigm of sin and immoral behavior. New language is emerging daily, and we have to choose how we engage with it. Is it threatening or useful? Are we defensive or inspired? How do you feel when someone uses language different from your own?
My own story is a tapestry of 20 years of alcohol use and misuse mixed with periods, long and short, of no use at all. I have participated in a variety of support groups, therapy and communities. Some have helped me immensely. Some have hindered me from taking ownership of my behavior. The language of shame, disempowerment, and confusion has been a big part of my journey. The roller coaster of my life never got low enough to justify a staggering disruption—instead, my recovery has been a slow burn.
It is only now, maybe because I am older, maybe because I’m more confident, that I feel able to rid myself of language that is not useful to me.
I no longer feel the need to bend to fit into a predetermined mindset. I am finally owning my journey through my language: the good, the bad and the ugly.
I feel it is my responsibility to help other women walking on this path to figure out how to heal themselves. I want to be supportive with my words without piling my baggage on someone else. It is because I have finally embraced the language of my recovery that I am able to stand on firm ground.
What does your story say about you? We each have the ability to create it. Word by word.
Katie Jones is a friend, wife, and mom of three amazing teens. She considers her recovery a discovery and constant process of lifelong learning. She is a social worker, spiritual director and has a Masters in Catholic Theology. She finds in her mid 40’s she enjoys early bedtimes, yoga, walks by the river, loads of coffee, reading, podcasts, and ridiculous reality TV. Her ultimate goal in writing is to become vulnerable enough to possibly open a space where words spark loving curiosity in herself and others.