If you or someone you care about has been coping with trauma or addiction, and to be sure, there are many more of us than there are not, you are a warrior immersed in a tremendous battle. Perhaps the struggle of your life.
New words, new ways of framing our experiences, stories, and who we are is essential to our healing and growth. We aren’t just one thing. We aren’t just traumatized or addicted, just as we’re not just a body—we are so much more. And the way we talk about that, ourselves, our experiences, and each other must reflect that dimension. Our words are powerful and how we categorize, communicate, label with language when it comes to mental health and addiction has been historically problematic. In this new communication paradigm, we must lead with sensitivity, spaciousness, kindness, autonomy, and hope.
At Beond, we use plant medicine as a tool for helping to heal those suffering from addiction and trauma. And we believe that our healing as individuals has the power to heal us all. We also believe that healing is possible through a vast network of support which includes, but is not limited to, how we talk about our suffering.
While Beond is an environment that fully allows psychedelic medicines to do their work, it is essential to use language and conversation styles that are neutral, compassionate, and supportive. Using this kind of language will provide the blank canvas to gain insights, self-discoveries, truths, and solutions free from outside influence, ascribed concepts, and preconceived notions. And most importantly, not be limited to stories around shame, suffering, guilt, and intergenerational trauma.
There is the idea of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset; a fixed mindset is can act as a lifelong prison sentence where change does not feel available or possible for the individual. This can be an oppressive and hopeless state for a human being. A growth mindset advocates for change and uses compassionate, informed, and supportive words. These words are part of a lexicon that helps people understand substance use disorder as a response to their pain. A growth mindset vocabulary advocates and outlines to the person that they are not their negative habits.
Here are some tips on how to practice conscious conversation around mental health conditions and diagnoses that embody a growth mindset:
Example: She has PTSD.
This languaging implies something is wrong with the person rather than the event that caused the trauma. It is a normal human response to be negatively impacted when something traumatic is experienced. "PTSD" tends to carry a lot of stigma within the military and veterans' communities. Many forms of trauma response are ways to deal with what the system does not understand.
Alternative phrasing: PTS (post-traumatic stress) or unhealed trauma; "She is experiencing post-traumatic stress"; "I am working through unhealed trauma"; "He is healing generational trauma."
Example: He's Depressed. I am depressed.
Related: Bipolar, dually diagnosed, etc.
Similarly, as with the term 'addict,' these diagnoses and other states of suffering aren't who a person is. It also may be something other than depression; for example, it could be grief. Bipolar could be something else, such as recurring EBV or a severe food or chemical allergy.
It is essential not to use broad sweeping terms so that people can discover what they are feeling and why they may be feeling this way.
Alternative phrasing: "He is experiencing depression." "Are you feeling depressed?" "I am feeling depressed."
Below are some ways to practice conscious conversation around substance use disorder. The following is a list of words and phrases to avoid and what to say instead:
Abuse / Abuser
Example: He's a drug abuser.
Linked with violence, anger, and judgment. Positioned as a personality trait or moral failing rather than a health issue and places blame on the person with an addiction.
Alternative phrasing: "Using" with a substance (i.e., using opioids), risky use, harmful use, unhealthy use, hazardous use, problematic use, individual struggling with substance use, experiencing chaotic substance use, individual with substance use disorder.
Example: She's an addict.
Related: Alcoholic, crackhead, druggie, dopehead, doper, drunk, drunkard, junkie, pothead.
The word addict is stigmatizing, reducing a person's total identity down to their substance use struggle and denying their dignity and humanity. In addition, these labels imply permanency to the condition, leaving little room for growth. It's better to use person-first language and leave enough space for change and transcendence.
Alternative phrasing: A person with a substance use disorder (SUD); client (if receiving treatment services) or a person who uses drugs. (PUD) is a common term in the harm reduction movement.
Example: He's a drug user.
The term is stigmatizing because it identifies a person by his or her behavior (much like "addict").
Alternative phrasing: Person who uses substances.
Example: He smoked crack for many years, but now he's clean; Her test was clean.
It associates illness symptoms with filth and implies a person struggling with a dependence on drugs or alcohol is inherently "dirty" or socially unacceptable.
Alternative phrasing: In recovery, abstinent, on the path toward recovery, not currently using substances.
Example: She has a bad drug habit.
A habit is something that can easily be broken through persistence or willpower. Substance use disorder is more complicated. It requires medical treatment and an emotional commitment to treatment and recovery. Calling substance use disorders a habit denies the medical nature of the condition and implies that resolution of the problem is simply a matter of character and willpower. A person with substance use disorder can feel more attended to if understood that the drugs were something that aided them in coping with life on life's terms.
Alternative phrasing: Substance use disorder, or misuse alcohol and drug use disorder, problem use, non-medical use, unhealthy use, risky use, harmful use; a person struggling with substance use.
Friends, these are powerful times. We're witnessing the world heave through a marathon of change, loss, fear, crisis, and transition without a clear finish line. And yet we endure. Many of us with new scars to tell the tales, many of us still unsure of the words to use to try and untangle the knot of our experiences.
Proper preparation ensures the longevity of your healing. Beond counselors and integrations coaches conduct at least two 1:1 confidential sessions to assess your situation and design a pre-treatment plan that prepares your body, mind and spirit for optimal therapy.
Our coaches are available to clients 24 hours a day via our tele-medicine platform.
Led by your physician, supported by our certified nursing and psychology staff, your treatment takes place on-site through a safe and effective combination of psychedelic plant medicine, 1:1 counseling, and advanced medical technologies.
Beond combines experiences of self discovery and exploration with breath work, bodywork, nutrition, meditation and deep relaxation practices.
The key to lasting transformation is continuous aftercare. Your certified Beond integration coaches engage remotely before departure and continue your healing through continuous counseling, education, and support after your return home.
Beond integration coaching is available for extended family & loved ones in any location.