Labels can actually hurt the recovery process

Today we challenge the lie that people have to label themselves as an addict or alcoholic to successfully recover.

There is no research that indicates people are more likely to recover from a substance use disorder if they label themselves as anything. However, there is research that shows forcing people to identify as an addict or alcoholic can actually be detrimental to their efforts to change. The latest diagnostic manual for professionals (DSM-5) recognized such research and accordingly removed addiction as an official diagnostic label due to “its uncertain definition and its potentially negative connotation.” Even in AA and NA the only requirement for participation is the desire to stop using, there is no requirement to identify as an addict or alcoholic.

The potentially negative connotations to the addict and alcoholic are prolific. When I ask people that I associate with to list all the adjectives that come to mind to describe an addict or alcoholic I elicit a large list of negatives (e,g., drunk, manipulative, loser, weak, powerless, etc.).

If people label themselves as an alcoholic or addict, and thinks that means they are a lying, manipulative, weak, powerless, loser, then they probably don’t feel too good about themselves. When we don’t feel great about ourselves, substances offer an appealing and reliable break from uncomfortable feelings.

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Forcing people to think of themselves as lying, manipulative, powerless, losers is not only not helpful, it is tantamount to abuse.

Changing the way in which we use words when speaking about addiction is an important step in helping reduce the stigma surrounding their illness. Choosing to use non-stigmatizing language allows people in recovery to choose how they want to identify themselves in regards to their substance use disorder. While we can’t solve the problem of the underlying stigma surrounding addiction by just changing the words we use, it’s one way we can break through society’s negative perceptions about prevention, treatment, recovery, and substance use disorders. By doing so, people will begin to accept addiction as a disease, and those who have substance use disorders will not feel shame in seeking out help.

Mark Jacobson

Winona

Mark Jacobson is a peer support specialist

Anti-maskers score a win … but at what cost?

Approximately three minutes into the recent St. Croix County Board meeting discussing the communicable disease ordinance, the board began a 30-minute listening session where members of the general public were allowed to comment.

RELATED: St. Croix County COVID ordinance fails in 10-9 vote

Right out of the gate, a middle-aged white man compared wearing a mask to slavery. America’s original sin, the forced servitude of an entire race, a practice directly responsible for the continued inequities in our society … akin to wearing a mask. The comparison was one of the most preposterous, insensitive and ludicrous I’ve ever heard.

Unfortunately, it didn’t get much better.

Another man stepped up and indicated that with all his years of studying infectious diseases (note: he’s an owner of a local gym), that we could rid ourselves of the COVID-19 pandemic by taking multi-vitamins.

Yet another stood up and said that mask-wearing was a sign that socialism and communism have reached our shores.

Another, who brandished his credentials as a “medical practitioner” (note: he’s a chiropractor, not an epidemiologist or a virologist), said that he believes there’s no evidence that masks work in slowing the spread.

As cases rise in our area, it’s people like this — in their infinite wisdom — that have hijacked the issue of COVID-19.

Unfortunately for reasonable folk in St. Croix County, ones that believe in facts and science, the continued bullying from a group of local “patriots” worked. First, the ordinance was rendered toothless. Then it was voted down. Congrats, “patriots,” you’ve put the very local businesses you say you champion, at risk.

Masks aren’t an end-all solution. Nobody is saying they will end COVID tomorrow. But the science is increasingly clear: masks help slow the spread.

Instead, the ridiculous cries of “tyranny” from a faction of people who, as recently as a month ago proudly displayed their “Eff Your Feelings” flags, have put us all in harm’s way.

Congratulations, “patriots.” You own this.

Dan Myers

Somerset, Wis.