The Labels We Carry Through Life

We all go through our lives with labels. Mother, daughter, teacher, woman, friend. I am all of these things. Another label given to me is addict, but that doesn’t erase all the other things I am. Nor does it define me. When people hear “addict” they think of someone who is a criminal, dirty, homeless, or dangerous. They don’t typically think professional, upper middle class, educated, hard-working, nice Jewish girl.


I don’t fit the stereotype.


Outside the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I don’t generally discuss my addiction, but recently I have run into situations that have forced me to stand up for myself. Situations that have forced me to remind myself and others that despite my addiction, I am a human being and deserve to be treated as such.


I was at the pharmacy picking up a prescription for a medication that is almost exclusively prescribed to curb drug cravings. When I first walked in, the pharmacist commented on how much she liked my designer purse and we chatted for a minute. I handed her my script and kindly told her I had a coupon I would like to use to fill the prescription. She very abrasively told me that “we don’t take coupons for that medication” so I asked for the script back to bring to a pharmacy that would take my coupon. She handed me back the script and under her breath, but just loud enough that I could hear, she muttered "junkie." Five minutes ago when I walked in looking nice, she treated me like any other customer, but when she realized I was an addict, someone she considered to be less than, her whole demeanor changed. I ran out of the pharmacy, tears starting to fall down my face.


Once I calmed down the first thing that popped into my rather angry brain was an affirmative and empowering voice that said “I am a person." I repeated that to myself over and over again “I am a person” “I am a person” “I am a person”, and you know what? The addict standing on the corner asking for money - they are also a person. We are all people...doing the best we can with what we have.


People don’t talk enough about certain taboo things - such as addiction - and that is exactly why misconceptions are perpetuated. One of the greatest things about recovery is unlearning and relearning what it means to be human - that no person is better than another. We all exist on a level playing field. I have done things in my addiction that I am not proud of. I have also done things in sobriety I am not proud of. So has every single person I know.


My pain may not look the same as others and I may deal with it differently, but pain is pain and we can all relate to feeling hurt, insecure, or scared. In the past, I used drugs or alcohol to alleviate life’s “hard feelings.” Now, I talk and write and lean on those who care about me when life becomes overwhelming.


I write this to say we all struggle through life differently, but no matter how different our stories are, everyone deserves to be treated with kindness. Including addicts. Because we are people too.


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Jourdan Stein is a young, Jewish woman in the beginning stages of her recovery from opiates and alcohol. She resides in the bay area with her dog Sadie. Jourdan is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. Her writing has been published in several publications including New Voices and The Forward’s Scribe.


For more information on the CCSA blog and/or contribution process, please reach out to Ellie Forman at eforman@jewishccsa.org


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