What is your opinion on "once an addict, always an addict."

How do you feel about this mentality? In my opinion, I don’t think it’s very encouraging to call someone who has worked so hard to stay clean for __ number of years an “addict”.

When I see people introduce themselves in movies like, “hello, I’m Paul, I’ve been clean for 14 years and I’m an addict.” it makes me cringe. Because that person ISN’T an addict any longer. It’s like a fat person who loses all their weight still saying they’re fat. Or a bank robber who has served his time saying, “Hi, I’m Tom, I did 20 years for armed robbery and I’m a bank robber.” To me it’s saying that a person never changes. Why would you call yourself something that has such a heavy and negative connotation? The same goes for alcoholics. My aunt hasn’t had a drop in 20 years and she still calls herself an alcoholic. I always argue and tell her that she ISN’T a fucking alcoholic anymore.

This is one of ideals the twelve step program that I disagree with, in fact, there are many. This is just one that I can’t grasp. It’s totally discouraging the EX-addict and I also think it subconsciously does something to the self esteem of the EX-addict. Which is why I think so many go back to doing drugs. These programs teach people backwards.

For many addicts the temptation to backslide is always there, even if its been years since their last drink or injection. So by continuing to refer to themselves as “addicts” even after they’ve beaten their addiction, they’re reminding themselves that they always need to be vigilent to avoid slipping back into those destructive behavior patterns.

They’re not saying “I’m a bad person and I always will be.” They’re saying “I have a predisposition to substance abuse that I must always guard against.”

Right, I totally understand the other side of it. But like I say, you don’t see people who’ve had a gastric bypass walking around saying “I’m fat.” Or even ex-smokers walking around stating that they are smokers.

I’m an alcoholic. My problem is ‘Gus.’
This is IMHO
That is why this idea in the OP has not really worked out along with many others. It seems that Those who kick the addiction of choice for long periods of time do not have a problem with it and like Pochacco said, it keeps us reminded.

Anyone who is ‘put off’ by the fact that I’m an alcoholic in recovery (16+ years thankyouverymuch) is not someone who I want around me nor do I care what they think.

Kind of like an old soldiers saying to the clueless, “Son, I may die for you but I will not die because of you.”


This mindset is pretty common around former addicts, especially the AA crowd. It helps because it prevents a slide back into addiction. If you say it’s ok to have one drink/hit/whatever because you are recovered, then you might say it’s ok to have another, and another. Suddenly you are addicted again. The “I’m still an addict” line is probably true in some cases, and it’s better to just avoid your addiction all together than to find out if that line is true in your case.

As to why former fat people and smokers don’t say that line, well, I’m sure some do. However, the treatment processes for those don’t seem to be heavily influenced by the AA model. I’d say that’s the reason for the difference more than anything inherent to the addictions.

Formerly fat people have to watch the tendency to backslide, too. I am speaking from experience; I have had a running battle with my weight all of my life. At the moment I am losing. I have been as low as a size 7 and as large as a 28.

Some people who have lost weight have a negative self-image and still see themselves as fat. Others just realize they will only maintain weight loss through continued viligance.

I’ve got to say, I meet both your criteria, being an ex-smoker (of over 15 years) and having just had bariatric surgery to lose weight (lap band, not bypass, by the way).

If I had even one cigarette, I would start smoking - I enjoyed it that much. I know that even after I lose all the weight that I have to lose, I’ll have to stay eternally vigilant, for the rest of my life, so I don’t slide back. Many, many people who do have weight loss surgery transfer their addiction to other things like alcohol, shopping or gambling.

I don’t want to feel comfortable by thinking that I’ve recovered - the reason for the addiction is still there, despite the actual behaviour ceasing to exist. So, I’ll always be an addict, and I’ll always have to be careful.

I realise you’re trying to help, but I don’t agree with this.

I think people say they are a ‘recovering’ addict, which shows they have beaten their addiction (well done!), but realise they are not permanently cured (because you can’t be).
Sadly drugs like alcohol and nicotine are chemically addictive. You can’t become an addict, give it up, then ‘just have one drink’. Your body will snap back into demanding unlimited drinks.
The same applies to addicted gamblers, who will relish the feelings that got them into the habit in the first place.
So former addicts do indeed ‘never change’ - they face a lifetime of avoiding instant slipping back into addiction, and deserve our support.

I find it helpful to know someone is a ‘recovering addict’, because I can look out for them and avoid tempting them into re-addiction.
I also praise such people. The ‘negative connotations’ you mention are a reflection of the ignorance and stupidity of the person who thinks them, not the person bravely fighting their addiction.

gless got it right – I generally don’t identify as an alcoholic, but as a recovering (note, not “recovered”) alcoholic. I can’t drink moderately, because I’m an alcoholic; I will never be able to drink socially, so I am not a “recovered” alcoholic – and I choose not to drink at all, as part of my never-ending process of recovering.

twicks, sober 21 years+

Quick nitpick with the OP’s analogies:

(1) “I’m fat” conveys the symptom, not the problem. The phrase “addict” conveys the tendency better than any verb tense we have. The best you could say is “I had gastric bypass and I’m dieting” or “…but I still have to watch my cravings.”

(2) If he did 20 years for armed robbery, because he robbed a bank, then he is and always will be a convicted bank robber.

That said, I have known many addicts and I even went to a few AA meetings to support good friends who kicked the habit. Every now and again I’ll meet someone in a completely unrelated setting and just know that they’re a recovering addict (I’ve had my guesses confirmed several times too). I’m not sure what the signs are, but these people light up like neon signs to me. So there is something about being an addict that sticks with you for life.

I’ve never been a smoker. I’ve had:

a shared cigarrete when I was 15, in March during my high school’s festival
a drag from another, that same summer, in July in Ireland
two drags from one in a mall in New Hampshire, when I was 19

But that second line corresponds to what I needed in order to get rid of an attack of coughing that had lasted for hours already. It was “black tobacco”, cigar-tobacco cigarettes, found only in a few countries including Spain - the kind of tobacco Dad chain-smoked (that summer was in the middle of his two-year, 4-5-pack-a-day peak).

When I’m anxious I could kill for a cig.

I hate old tobacco smells but love smelling it while someone smokes.

I may never have been a smoker, but I do think I’m a smoke addict. YMMV.

I’ve seen people trying to force others to drink, smoke or take other drugs many times. “I’m in AA” or equivalent seems to be one of the few things that stop those idiots - bad news that they don’t stop at the first “no,” but at least something does stop them!

I used to feel this way too, back when I was in denial that I had a problem.
When I finally admitted that I was an addict, I truly had no issue with calling myself one, even with clean time under my belt. I’m a recovering addict. It doesn’t sway me or deter me from my goal.
As to relating it to fat issues, well I had that too. I was obese and lost the weight but I feel that food is another addiction for me. It’s all inclusive, if it feels good, I’ll abuse it.

I don’t agree with everything in the 12 step program. However, I do attend NA and AA and feel that it contributes a lot to my recovery.

I’m not offended or trying to argue with you at all. But how is being fat a symptom and not a problem? A symptom of what?

In reality, the analogy is perfect, because it’s a vice that someone has gotten rid of and with common logic, they wouldn’t walk around saying that they are still fat. Yes, they too have a tendency to put weight back on, just like an addict falling back into drugs.

Saying “I’m fat” would be like saying “I’m still drinking.” If you’re not drinking, you’re not drinking. But you still have a different relationship with alcohol than non-alcohlics have. An overeater may no longer be fat, but for many of them, they have issues with food that other people don’t.

All I can speak for is this drunk.

My father died an alcoholic death and mother died an alcoholic death. Alcohol nearly killed me several times, also. It ruined my life, such as it was. The last time I got drunk, I was really wasted. My BAC was considerably higher, two or three hours after the wreck, than my father’s was post-mortem. The next morning in the drunk tank I decided that I needed to cut back. Then I remembered that I had cut back, even quit, a thousand times before. To my reckoning there was no point in drinking if I were not going to get wasted. I quit on April 5, 1987, I have not drank since. I miss beer. Last week I walked past the beer cooler in a gas station, it was hot out, and I said to myself, “Who would ever know?” I opened the cooler and had to remind myself, “Who would ever care?” and I stopped.
I know that, even after twenty years, if I drink one beer today, then tommorrow I will allow myself another beer, then a couple. Soon I will allow myself a six pack, then a couple and it will go on until something happens that I will regret. I know this because it has happened before just like that. It is my nature.
I’ve asked that question before, “Is it really true, once an addict, always an addict?” and usually when I was asking it, I was really looking for permission. Someone to tell me that it is okay to have just a few, in moderation. I’ve given myself permission to partake in the past and it has always gone bad, sooner or later. It is MY nature.

I can only answer for this one drunk. I am an addict. I have always been an addict. I will always be an addict. I do not give myself permission to drink. I’m also aware that drugs and gambling can and have caused me problems in the past. I avoid those too. I got pretty fat, approaching obese, before I made myself eat less and do more. I am my own keeper. I try to do what’s best for me and I’ve learned the hard way not to give me too much slack.

Keep in mind, there is also a physical addiction to alcohol. Or at least, you can’t just quit cold turkey on your own. My great-aunt tried that. When she came to visit for my grandparents’ 40th anniversary, she knew my grandmother would be pissed if she was drunk, so she decided to quit drinking for the trip.

She ended up in the hospital after an alcoholic seizure.

Another aunt died because of years and years of abuse. The sad part is, she was just getting sober.

Starting up again is a recipe for disaster-especially if you don’t learn to deal with your problems in a different way.
ETA: I believe there WAS an organization dedicated to learning to just monitor your drinking, rather than just doing without. I believe the founder of said organization ended up denouncing it, saying it was full of shit, and she had to stop. Because she couldn’t drink responsibly.

Why tempt it?

My therapist said that a lot of addicts really replace one addiction for another - one that is healthier or more acceptable. They might find God. They might take up exercise. And in the history of giving up smoking, no one has ever subbed food for cigarettes. The personality is addictive - its just do you pick something that hurts you or that you can function with in society. I think recognizing that you have an addictive personality (are an addict) is going to help you in not replacing alcohol with drugs or drugs with cigarettes or cigarettes with food.

You SHOULDN’T quit on your own. I didn’t seize out, but I’m told that I could have. I did scratch a lot of the skin off of my arms, though. I wanted to quit badly and memories of that week twenty years ago sustain me.

Which was my point-I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer.

This thread is why my blood just boils when people deny that alcoholism is a disease. Wanna meet my family and find out?

Like so much else, I think it depends on the person. I’m an overeater. At the moment, I’m fat. I’m getting thinner, but my general disposition is of a person who will tend to overeat, and even when I was thin, and even when I’m thin again, I will be an overeater. I may not be “fat”, but I will always be an overeater. My husband, OTOH, became a bit fat eating the food I was cooking, but he’s not particularly an overeater. Change his diet, and he is both thin and a healthy eater.

I think some people have the same relationship to drugs, including alcohol. No matter whether or not they had their last drink an hour ago or a decade ago, they will still have the tendency to abuse drugs. They will always be addicts or alcoholics, nevermind their current level of consumption. It’s a mental, and perhaps physiological, state-of-being, not a description of an activity.

I also believe, however, that not everyone who abuses drugs or drink is an addict. There are indeed people who go through a period of self-medication or recreation and need treatment to stop. But some of them may quite legitimately be able to resume moderate use later in life. I think it’s these people to whom AA does a great disservice to.

The problem, of course, is that you don’t really know if you’re an addict or not until you try moderation and it fails.