The tongue has no bones but it’s strong enough to hurt, so it’s important to be careful with our words.

I now dedicate my life to being a word-watcher.

The word ‘addiction’ is attached to the historical definition of an affliction that is hinged on personal failing, character flaws, and moral turpitude.  Addiction will always carry the judgement of the corrupt and the corrupted.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to divorce the word “addiction” from the legacy of the morally depraved models.

Like most shifts away from stigmatizing language, we have little to lose and much to gain. It’s time we live up to our cries of “words matter.”

Addiction is a complex condition that affects everyone differently.  It’s also the most stigmatized condition on the planet that continues to be treated with punitive actions instead of medical actions.

I don’t refer to myself as a recovered addict because I refuse to be defined by it.  I insist on using person-first language.  Addiction is a chronic medical illness, and I am a person who has recovered and will always be vulnerable to addiction.

Our continued use of terms like addict, drug-abuser, junkie, meth-head, drunk, loser, etc. further stigmatizes a vulnerable population that continues to be treated with discrimination.

The medical community is finally starting to use less-judgemental terminology that helps to humanize people with addictions.  Instead of labelling a patient as an addict or drug-abuser, we’re hearing and seeing more appropriate clinical diagnoses of “substance-use disorder” and “alcohol-use disorder” (SUD/AUD).

I’d like to introduce you to Azzy-Mae, a 32-year-old neurodivergent transfeminine non-binary person working in the Greater Boston area.  Azzy-Mae is a PWUD/PWID (person who uses drugs / person who injects drugs) and has been actively studying and consuming psychoactive substances for 17+ years.  Azzy-Mae engaged in the illicit-substance trade for several years, where she provided a great deal of ad-hoc drug & harm-reduction education, and psychedelic first-aid.

After a long career in the culinary arts, Azzy-Mae is now working in public health where she manages a Mobile Prevention Program focusing on street-level harm reduction outreach.  Azzy-Mae also helped open the first syringe exchange in her hometown.

Recently, Azzy-Mae managed a harm-reduction program for trans/GNC folks as well as cis women; most of whom are consuming substances, engaged in sex work, and experiencing homelessness.

Azzy-Mae sits on a statewide harm-reduction advisory council and does independent training and consulting for organizations and the public. She engages in a lot of off-hours public-facing low-threshold education through various social media platforms, primarily LinkedIn and Instagram.

I often cringe at some of the things I read from Azzy-Mae, but I’m also grateful to have platforms for open discussions where I can continue learning about the complexities of addiction.  It’s the only way we can ever reach an agreeable solution for an ever-growing problem.

May the force be with you,

and remember…

YOU are the force!


About the Author:

After 20+ years in broadcasting, Tanya MacIntyre decided to pack up negative news and progressive addictions.  Her recovery kicked into high gear when she started to write & speak openly about her challenges, and her success, with overcoming addictions.  Tanya now helps others who want to build their own path to recovery and better health.

DISCLAIMER: This content is not intended to constitute, or be a substitute for, medical diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard advice from your doctor, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have watched, read, or heard from anyone at Red Roof Recovery.