Remember that old nursery rhyme? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Cute, right? Unfortunately, cute does not equal true. Names can be very harmful.

In my earlier book, I touched on the idea that none of us can be defined as one-dimensional. Since you are no more just an addict than I am just a diabetic, what would be the sense in describing ourselves that way? Wouldn’t it be better to say you have a substance abuse disorder than to say you are an addict? Calling yourself an addict does not separate who you are from what disease you happen to have.

Calling yourself an addict is demoralizing. Yeah, yeah, I know, people say I want to sugarcoat too much, but really think about it. Labels like “addict” are so confining, and remember earlier, I spoke about people who have been in recovery for twenty some-odd years want to drop that label. By now, you know I love proverbs, expressions, etc. Here is a doozy for you. It supposedly is from African folklore. It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to.

So sure, in treatment, you are an addict. And even at meetings, OK. And ditto during medical treatment, but really, every time, everywhere? Maybe not.

Something inside is always listening. Be aware of self-talk. In my practice, I am reminding everyone that their entire brain is not addicted. Good thing too! This not-addicted part is the part we develop and nurture. This not-addicted part has a limitless capacity to learn and gain strength.

Maybe I have a substance abuse disorder is not yet socially accepted as a description for the masses, but nothing keeps you from adopting this terminology for yourself. Every disease is a disorder of one sort or another, and addiction is a brain disease.

So sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart.