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Why Recovering Drug Addicts Should Disassociate from Labels

Recovering drug addicts often find it difficult to overcome their problem due to their association with criminal and unhealthy activity.

One of the first steps to recovery is to admit you have a problem so you, and only you, can address it. Not because someone told you to, but because you want to.

For a long time people were saying to me, ‘We think you have a problem,’ but in the end I had to come to the realization myself.”
–  Daniel Radcliffe on alcoholism

Unfortunately, this can be quite a challenging step due to the negative labels placed on drug addicts, and furthermore how easy it is to adopt them as a part of who you are.

When a person identifies with a label or stereotype, it can be hard for them to change who they are. This is especially true if that label is a negative one. Often, the public holds a negative opinion of those who struggle with addiction. Men and women might use terms like lowlife, criminal, troublemaker, or scoundrel.

If an addict is judged in this way, the judgment might in fact trigger more drug use.

But what happens when that person wants to get sober?

Recovering Drug Addicts Who Want to Move Forward

If a recovering addict continues to identify as being a criminal or a troublemaker, it might be challenging for them to break that identity and create someone new.

Yet, that’s exactly what the path of recovery is all about. It’s about becoming someone whom you can be proud of. It’s about finding a way of life that you feel good about. The person you want to become might be someone who thinks about your children first or someone who is focused on saving a marriage and not on alcohol.

As a person progresses in their recovery and they come across judgments, stereotypes, and labels, it may limit them. It may trigger them or remind them of others who in the past were perhaps emotionally abusive. Stereotyping an addict as being a lowlife, especially if they are working on creating a new life for themselves, might create an obstacle, a roadblock to their success.

It’s important for recovering addicts to know that changing who and what you  identity with is the beginning. Typically, when you identify with something you take pride in who you are. You take pride in behaving in certain ways and knowing certain pieces of information. You take pride in having unique experiences. Being identified with something means that you treasure it and that you take it seriously. However, sometimes people can develop negative identifies, which involve beliefs about themselves, such as “I’m unlovable” or “I’m a lowlife”, like the judgment mentioned above.


Over time, the point of recovery is to change your identity as an addict or a “lowlife” or a “criminal” to something you can be proud of. Changing this identity might be hard, especially if your circle of friends acknowledges that you are the top drinker and that you’re always the hit of the party. Yet, there’s no question that if you want to get sober, you will need to find a new way of thinking about yourself.

You’ll also need to create an entirely different lifestyle. But to create an entire lifestyle change, as mentioned earlier, you’ve got to start with changing who you are.

You can do this by:

  • getting the right support around you
  • calling those who can acknowledge your past and who are willing to facilitate your change
  • spending time with new sober friends
  • making a commitment to your sobriety and to the new you
  • taking care of yourself physically
  • putting effort towards the life you want to create
  • facing fears
  • letting go of the past
  • healing relationships with family and friends

You should know that there might be some friends who won’t accompany you on the journey of sobriety. However, this could be a positive thing. In fact, spending time with those who don’t need to drink to get the most out of life can help you create a new you.