Meghan Ralston, the harm reduction coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance seems to think so. “Addict,” she writes in her AlterNet blog on March 25, “is one of those words that so many of us use, largely without pausing to wonder if we should. We just take for granted that it’s totally okay to describe a human being with one word, ‘addict’ —a word with overwhelmingly negative connotations to many people.” “We don’t say, ‘my mother, the blind,’ or ‘my brother, the bipolar’,” nor, “my best friend, the epileptic, or my nephew, the leukemia.” “We don’t do that,” she continues, “because we intuitively understand how odd it would sound, and how disrespectful and insensitive it would be. We don’t ascribe a difficult state as the full sum of a person’s identity and humanity.”
I disagree. Stating what a person has, addiction, blindness, dementia or is missing a limb in no way by itself is insulting or insensitive; it is simply stating what is. What makes it insulting or insensitive is the way in which it is said, and that has to do with intention.
I am an alcohol addict. Though I haven’t had a drink in 35 years, I remain sensitive to alcohol and other addicting chemicals, so I avoid them. If someone calls me an addict a mocking tone of voice, it is their problem. I learned a long time ago to feel compassion toward people who use “addict” to mock others. After all, like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, they are saying more about themselves than they are about me.
Being an addict simply describes a condition that I have, it does not describe me. My job, and the job of everyone who has that illness or condition, is to heal from it and become whole again. To me, “addict” is a neutral word, like “blind.” It says what I have, not what I am.
If you want to read Meghan Ralston’s article, here is the link: http://www.alternet.org/drugs/why-its-wrong-call-drug-users-addicts
Signing off for today. Please leave comments so we can continue this conversation.