Once an 'Addict', Always an 'Addict'

Putting a label on anyone based on a part of their life, or chapter they have lived through, is not fair. When we do this, we are putting people in a category that makes it hard for them to get out of, all because we think we know who they are with just a glimpse into one part of their lives. This goes for all kinds of labels, and not just the one I am here to talk about today: “Addict.

When I started sharing my story with the world, I dove right into the worst of it head first. I did this because I thought it was important for me to own up to the truth, and nothing but the truth. What I have learned is that not all people know how to handle being told that I am a “Recovering Addict” or that my past is filled with alcohol and drug abuse. When hearing these words, a lot of people forget that throughout that part of my story, I was also a human being who was just trying to survive the worst parts of myself. I had two jobs where I was working 60+ hours a week, I had friends who loved me, a family that supported me, a roof over my head, and tons of reasons to be grateful. From the outside looking in, I had it all together, but that is the thing about addiction: it does not care who you are, what your background is, or how much you have accomplished in this life. Being an addict is just a part of my story; not a label for how I should be treated for the rest of it.

For a large part of my recovery, I felt that I needed to be a certain way, do certain things, or partake in certain activities just because of the labels I was putting on myself. I thought that to get sober, and be sober, meant that I had to go to weekly meetings, check myself into a treatment center, and completely change the life I had lived thus far. It wasn’t that I needed to change my whole life; I just needed to change the parts that were keeping me sick. There is no cookie cutter program for getting sober and staying that way. There is just the belief that you can get better, and each day moving forward will require work and healthy habits of remaining in recovery.

I am sure you have heard the phrase, “Once an addict, always an addict”, and for the most part, I do agree with it. I agree with it because I have learned throughout my recovery that my mind has the potential to turn any habit into an impulsive, and obsessive one and that is just something I will have to learn to control for as long as I have to. I don’t agree with it when those who have never dealt with addiction treat me as if I am always on the brink of relapsing. This phrase is damaging for a number of reasons, and if someone is willing to open up about their past with addiction, know that it took a lot of work for them to get to where they are today. The fact of the matter is that no one truly knows if ‘once an addict, always an addict’ is true for all cases. History has shown that those who relapse or have thought that they could handle doing things in moderation, typically cannot. What keeps me recovering is knowing that I have once been an addict, and I don’t want to risk finding out if I always will be, so I no longer partake in doing things that lead me back down that road.

No matter who you are, or what you have been through, you are a human being first and foremost. We shouldn’t treat others differently just because we think we understand them based on the labels society puts on them. When we do this, we are limiting their abilities, and we are telling others that they can only amount to so much based on their circumstances. A recovering heroin addict has just as much potential as the next person. Sure, they may have a deeper hole to climb out of, but there is no ceiling to what we can achieve once we defeat the worst parts of who we have been.

I may have once been an addict, and sure, maybe I always will be, but it is up to me to create the future I deserve, and there is no label out there that can keep me in a box. Don’t be so quick to think you know someone based on only knowing a piece of their lives. We are all a work in progress, and we are all capable of being whatever, and whoever we want.


Thank you for reading. I appreciate you.

Megan Lawrence