The Myth of the ‘Good Addict’ vs. the ‘Bad Addict’
We do people a disservice when we assume their hesitance at the 12 steps is hesitance at recovery
Chances are you know something about the 12 steps of recovery. We have seen it in movies or on TV. The church basement, strong coffee, a person standing up and making a public declaration about how they have a problem. For many people, it works and it works really well. It offers support since there is the ability to socialize and be around other people who understand what it is like to use substances, and the desire to no longer use them. For some, however, the 12 steps may be inaccessible due to trauma, mental health, or other complexities that are far too often dismissed.
I am an addiction therapist in St. Louis, Missouri, but as I tell everyone I work with, I have my own journey through addiction. My social work career has been devoted to working with individuals affected in some capacity by substance use. Addiction was something that was modeled for me early in life, and it’s what caused me to be in foster care for 15 years. Both of my parents were substance users, and I lost three members of my family to overdose.
While 12-step programs work for some, they are not for everyone. You might already be saying, “Here he goes: He is going to bash the 12 steps.” The truth is, I have nothing bad to say about 12-step programs. The rooms of recovery have been there at many pivotal times in my life. There are components of the steps I use every day. I am not here to criticize anyone’s pathway to recovery or the tools they use to get there. This piece instead is meant to explore and further a conversation about how we view people’s ability to choose a pathway that is right for them.
The myth of the “good addict” versus the “bad addict”
I use this language very intentionally but recognize the increasing body of knowledge that points to the importance of person-centered language. This work is being led by Robert Ashford, MSW. His idea is that the term “addict” should not be used and should instead be replaced with “person who uses drugs.” Ashford and his team have extensively studied the use of language in reference to the recovery community. I…