Are we using ‘alcoholic’ the right way?


Words carry weight. Certain verbiage can define how culture, society, even governments respond to something. Stigmatization, for example, is a result. Drug addiction and alcoholism carry a connotation that separates those assigned with the label from other human beings. Separating and segregating makes processing difficult information easier. Fully comprehending alcoholism and drug addiction is challenging. It is to a deficit that society defaults to generally categorizing and loosely defining troubling issues, like a life-threatening disorder.

Admitting Your Alcoholism

In the twelve step world, admitting to one’s own alcoholism is the empowering first step to a program of recovery. Using that term is supposed to be liberating, but for millions of people it is debilitating enough to prevent them from seeking treatment. Binge drinkers, chronic drinkers, or even drinkers who consume in excess drink problematically. These people are no less worth treatment than the diagnosable, proclaimed ‘alcoholic’.

One author for the NY Daily News believes in five specific reasons to reevaluate the way the term alcoholic is used. Many of these points are important yet controversial topics. For example, whether or not alcoholism is a curable disease. Clinically, addiction and alcoholism have picked up the category of being “relapsing and remitting”. AA enforces that one’s alcoholism never leaves, but is reprieved daily through spiritual maintenance. Governmental institutions like NIDA, on the other hand, state that a majority of people treated for alcoholism fully recover.

Another point of controversy in the treatment community is the mythological “rock bottom”. Millions of people have hit it, but millions more have not. The ideology that life circumstances have to reach a certain low to denote the need for treatment is threatening to the unhealthy drinking habits of people who can be classified as ‘high functioning’. How bad does it have to be versus how bad is it right now is a fine line that costs people their lives on a daily basis.

One more interesting point is that anything that isn’t labeled ‘alcoholism’ is safe drinking. Alcohol is widely considered to be drug, and one of the world’s most dangerous at that. Alcohol is legal all over the world, with some countries’ drinking ages as low as sixteen years old. Arguments arise as to whether or not anyone can become addicted to alcohol with enough repeated exposure.

Most important is for these conversations to continue. Engaging in dialogue about alcoholism will only open the door to deeper understanding, more compassion, and new ideas for treatment.

Refuge Recovery strives to help those who suffer from addiction. Our programs inspire clients to become the best version of themselves, living lives of integrity and excellence. For more information on our programs of treatment call (323) 207-0276

Recommended Posts