The Power In Words

(A brief look at addiction recovery terminology)

Christian professionals need to become more privy to their use of terminology, especially when it comes to mental health. The Cognitive Behavioral approach explores one’s cognitions, thoughts and behaviors and focuses on reframing and replacing negative self-talk — one’s negative thought processes. The therapy target is ANTS (one’s Automatic Negative Thoughts.)

Taking these ANTS and thought processes into consideration, one can’t help but question the use of recovery language in counseling those with addictions.  The goal of COG B is to retrain the thinking to acquire a more positive set of beliefs and schemas. However, instructing the addict to recite, “I’M AN ADDICT”, is hardly positive reframing.  How is programming an addict to memorize his addiction conducive to healing one’s cognitions and negative thoughts? Repeatedly chanting “I’m an addict” is conditioning the brain to stay in a negative mode. This drastically limits ones spiritual growth.  It’s basically saying, I can go no further than my addiction.

”As a man thinketh, so he is.” Proverbs 23:7

How can Christian counseling possibly be integrated with such ludicrous messages carved into the memory bank over and over again? This serves to contradict the basic premise of Christianity and Christ’s love– our new identity in Him. The Word of God speaks of this new identity in Christ repeatedly– “we are a new creature in Christ.”

Consequently, there are two opposing forces in the Christian addict’s psyche vying for dominance–“I’m new in Christ/I’m an addict; new in Christ, addict…”  The originators of these recovery programs may have some justification for their logic, but it’s difficult for the lay person to grasp. Walking around muttering to oneself, “’I’m an addict” is a self-fulfilling prophecy and seems far more malignant than curative.

Repeating the phrase, “I’m an addict” encourages those in recovery to stagnate in self-absorbed cocoons and limit their social circle to fellow addicts. Some resort to crime due to the delusion that they are too vulnerable and therefore rightfully excused from engaging in society. Then movements form and glorify the drug abusing criminals and excuse them from legal consequences for their behavior as well.

Counter culture groups endorse their failure to accept responsibility and indulge in crime; and then demonize those who are striving to maintain peace and uphold law.

There is power in words and power in negative terminology. How will we reframe society if we don’t start with reframing the addict’s terminology, then their mindset?  Such a process will ultimately reshape their behaviors.

“I’m an addict” is a statement that truly seems to absolve them of responsibility and is detrimental to the healing process.