Do Labels Really Make A Difference When It Comes To Addiction?

Do Labels Really Make A Difference When It Comes To Addiction?

When we love someone that drinks too much or suffers from addiction, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of researching their issues and offering them a label or diagnosis.

And frankly, why wouldn’t we? We know they have a problem, and we love them. We’re trying to help. Right?

Inside our Secret Facebook Group, I’m always asking women what questions they have. I do Facebook Lives regularly to answer their questions and I’ve seen this topic come up quite a bit lately.

I was so excited when I saw this question because I’ve been wanting to address this for a while. A Love Over Addiction sister asks,

“Does anyone find difficulty in determining the line between alcoholic and narcissist? Or are they simply blurred?”

Here’s the deal. Every now and again in the self-help world, something becomes the new buzz word or phrase. Typically, if you dig a little deeper into the new buzz word, you’ll find it’s rooted in a philosopher or psychologist that was speaking out in the 1900s. Very rarely is there new data, it’s usually just ‘repackaged’ for today’s world.

Let me give you some examples. The word boundaries was super popular for a period of time. It seemed to be popping up on Google and everywhere else.

Codependency is another example. That was a buzz word when I was in my twenties, but most of the younger generation in our community hadn’t heard it before.

Today one of the words that keeps popping up is narcissism. You can always tell if it’s a hot word because you can go to the Barnes & Noble, Wall Street Journal, or Amazon websites and look at book reviews and trends. When you do that, it’s easy to see how many books are being written on the buzz topics.

Narcissism and narcissist are (again) becoming hot words.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m all for research. Seriously, it’s one of my passions, and I truly love it. And if you haven’t guessed already, I do have an issue with ‘narcissist’ in our community.

Here’s the loving truth: I don’t care if my loved one struggling with addiction is narcissist or not.

Here’s the loving truth: I don’t care if my loved one struggling with addiction is narcissist or not. They have a problem with addiction, whether that is an addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription pills, gambling, pornography, sex, you name it. Adding labels to diagnose them will make no difference whatsoever.

Let me be clear, there are appropriate labels and diagnoses.

If your loved one that suffers from addiction is seeking help from doctors or other medical professionals, diagnose away. But that sister, is not your job.

I get bothered when I see this because we don’t need to be spending our precious time, energy, research, and thoughts on solving their issues. We need to be focused on our own.

Trying to provide them a label or diagnosis is unhealthy, it’s enabling, and a projection.

We’re literally putting off our own healing because we’re trying to heal someone else.

We could be avoiding our own uncomfortable issues by choosing to research and focus on theirs instead.

I know that may be hard for some of us to hear. Trust me, I understand. But I’m here to tell you the loving truth that other people may be afraid to tell you.

Now, sisters, let me be clear again. There are times that labeling and diagnoses are appropriate. It is even appropriate for you to facilitate in certain situations. Let me explain…

Here’s an example: If you have a child who’s struggling in school. It’s important to diagnose them. They’ll likely need to see a specialist or medical professional, and you’ll need to facilitate that.

There’s a big difference between investing your time and energy into labeling or diagnosing your child versus your loved one that’s suffering from addiction.

Your child is your dependent. Literally and legally, it’s your responsibility to care for your child in this way. Especially when they are very young, you’re in charge of their emotional, physical, and mental health. It is literally your job to get your child diagnosed by a medical professional.

The adult (your loved one) struggling with addition has everything they need available to them to start their own recovery.

They are a grown adult. You are not their mother. It is not your job to take care of them. You are their partner.

By focusing on getting your loved one help, you’re neglecting yourself, sister. You’re not getting the help you need.

That’s why I have an issue and that’s why I say the diagnosis doesn’t matter. It’s not your job to diagnose or make/manage appointments for help.


I’m going to state the obvious.

Unless they’re willing to get the help themselves, they’re not going to get better.

You can drag them to appointments, threaten them, guilt them, and maybe it will work for a very short amount of time, but I promise you, unless it comes from a deep desire within them, it does not matter. It will not help.

It will be temporary. Their sobriety will be temporary. So please, don’t waste your valuable, precious energy and time trying to figure out what label to put on your loved one.

Here’s what you know for sure: You know their addiction (be it to alcohol, drugs, pills, gambling, porn, sex, or all of the above) is affecting their life in a negative way. It’s likely that they are lying to you. They are likely neglecting their responsibilities.

Or maybe your loved one is an extremely successful, very high functioning person who is suffering from addiction. Your relationship is suffering though. When they come home, they fall apart in the privacy of the home, with no one else there to see.

Let me lovingly tell you: that’s all you need to know.

That’s it. That is all you need to know. That’s all you need to do to confirm that there is a problem. Enough said. So you can check that box. There’s a problem there, and they need to get help. And if I admit that they have a problem, then I’m now empowered to do something about it.

I absolutely wholeheartedly do not prescribe to the idea that we are powerless over this disease.

That’s a common statement in recovery programs and I call BS. BS – we’re not powerless over this disease. We’re powerful. Sister, we absolutely have empowerment to take control of our lives and get healthy and happy and very secure, whether they get sober or not.

I know that may have been a little tough to read. It may have been too harsh for some, and that’s okay. My level of harshness comes from my passion for your recovery.

Don’t worry about the buzzwords. Don’t worry about giving them a label or diagnoses. Do your work. Stay focused. Keep your head in the game. Stay in your own lane. Head down, keep working. I promise you, you will see results. You will see change and you will feel better. You will. That’s not just lip service. I’ve seen thousands of women go through this. Don’t worry about the diagnosis.

One last thing sisters – When I was recording this podcast I had done my research (you know me ;)) and my writing. I ended the recording, but then had three more things I wanted to share. Listen to the podcast to hear the bonus ideas. Start at minute 16:57 if you don’t want to listen to the whole podcast.

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