Owning the Label: Why I identify as an alcoholic

Last night, I stumbled on an article by a sober blogger who doesn’t believe in the term “alcoholic”. Hmm. Tell me more. I kept reading.  Turns out, they think the term keeps people stuck in a story, that most alcoholics are actually just heavy drinkers and that the term creates fear. That was the gist of the piece. I won’t link it here because the author has enough publicity without my help but if you Google it, it’s easy to find. It’s an interesting argument and I could see where they were coming from. Maybe the term does get people stuck in a behavior. Maybe the term is out of date. Maybe calling yourself an addict or alcoholic would be a self-fulfilling prophecy for relapse. I thought about all of this as I tried to fall asleep. It made me wonder: I’ve been sober for nearly 7 years and after all this time, am I still an alcoholic?

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The resounding answer I came up with at the crack of dawn this morning was, “Fuck. Yes.” No, I don’t want to drink anymore. And no, I don’t arbitrarily go up to people and introduce myself as an alcoholic. “Hey! Nice to meet you. I’m an alcoholic!” Nor do I list “alcoholic” on my resume or social media profiles. But in a meeting? I’m Sean and I’m an alcoholic. And if a friend or a friend of a friend asks about my drinking, I’ll tell them I’m an alcoholic. Why? Mainly because at this stage of my sobriety, it isn’t about me anymore. It’s about helping other people. Look, we’re in seriously fucked up times when it comes to addicts and alcoholics. People are dying at alarming rates all over the US. The recent numbers are jaw-dropping. Alcohol related deaths topped out around 88,000 last year and it looks like it’ll be even higher for 2015. We’re at an epidemic state with drugs and alcohol so arguing the semantics of terms (like I’m sort of doing here) is fucking ridiculous. As is criticizing recovery programs. We’re officially at a “whatever keeps people alive and sober is a GOOD thing” state of emergency. We can’t afford the luxury of denying people help based on what they call themselves or what they believe. We have to do whatever we can. So If somebody somewhere knows that I’m an alcoholic and that helps them get help, then terrific.

The other thing is identifying as an alcoholic does is it keeps me grounded. When those words come out of my mouth, it’s like an exhale. Each time I say it, I’m living in the truth. As an alcoholic, I lie to myself. Like a lot. And like all of the time. So saying, “My name is Sean and I’m an alcoholic” helps me combat my lifelong penchant for living in denial and delusion. Likewise owning that I’m gay, HIV positive, the child of an alcoholic and a person who suffers from depression. These are all parts of who I am and I gotta say I’m proud of it. All of it. I’ve worked hard on overcoming a lot of shit (and still have even more stuff to work on) so hell yeah I own being a drunk and all of the other labels attached to me.

Lastly, introducing myself as alcoholic reminds that I still need help too. That I don’t have this shit figured out. That I’m not some expert in sobriety who can fix the drinking problems of others (thank fucking God). Basically, it opens the door for some sort of humility to creep in. Those words tell me I’m not better than or more sober or more amazing than any other alcoholic or addict and I need that. So yeah, I’m Sean and I’m an alcoholic.

But tell what you think. Do you identify as alcoholic? Did you ever? Why or why not? There’s no wrong answers here, kids and I’m fascinated by this discussion. Let me have it in the comments section!

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4 thoughts on “Owning the Label: Why I identify as an alcoholic

  1. I identify as an alcoholic/addict, and I have for the 23 years I’ve been clean & sober. It’s worked, so, I see no reason ro “fix” it.
    I also identify as “a person in long-term recovery.” I think that after a few thousand 24’s, I’ve earned that right.
    But more.often than not, I’m just agarden-variety drunk/druggie. I have recovered from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind” and I am still gratefully carrying the message.
    Thanks for a well-written and thought-provoking post. Happy Christmas. 🙂

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