By: C. W. Stratton


Judgment: We’re All Experts on Others


Are You Judging the Newcomer? craig stratton marilyn l davis from addict 2 advocate


“Judging others is easy because it distracts us from the responsibility of judging ourselves.” ~Charles Glassman, Brain Drain: The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life 

Trying to determine another person’s level of commitment to recovery is such a challenging task. When interacting or observing others, there is a tendency to judge or compare their actions and behaviors to ours. 

Some who enter the process may have a sincere desire to change their lifestyle or patterns of behaviors that lead them through the doors of recovery but are having difficulty understanding the many concepts involved. The challenges may result in not fulfilling specific commitments or responsibilities to themselves and others, which has the potential for a direct path to relapse. Not that relapse (use of substances) is always the result, but certain behaviors become apparent to those interacting with or observing the person.

Through the eyes of the onlookers, some predictable conclusions are:

  • “They’re not really committed.”
  • “They aren’t ready.”
  • “They’re in relapse mode.”
  • “They haven’t hit bottom.”
  • “They haven’t yet surrendered.”
  • “They’re probably still using.”

Judgment Misses an Opportunity to Genuinely Help


Although no legitimate evidence supports those thoughts, there is a negative judgment of the person. 

How does that person move past the obstacles they are facing without genuine help from the onlookers?

The negative consensus or inaccurate observations can prevent some people from reaching out to that person; to give assistance and guidance, which will have an additional negative impact on the person. It can also impact the person’s ability to listen, grasp and understand some basic concepts of one addict/alcoholic helping another. 

Judging Them Reinforces Their Shame


How can they grasp what anyone is saying if they are judged? The judgment passed on to a struggling person can have a traumatizing effect. 

Some of us can recall a time during our active addiction when people judged us in such a critical way that we may have continued using substances because we refused to deal with what we were feeling due to the judgment.

Hopelessness instantly ensued:

  • “What’s the use.”
  • “They’ll never trust me.”
  • “No one cares.”
  • “I may as well keep using.
  • “I’ll never be able to beat this.”
  • “This is my life, and I better accept it.”

Many have yearned to be free of it during active addiction but weren’t quite sure how to go about it.  In recalling this period in some of our lives, we can almost experience those exact feelings and emotions in this very moment. Those feelings were unwanted, and we do what we need to do in our recovery, so we don’t experience those feelings today. 

Some Reasons for Judging Others


So, why would some people be so inclined to pass judgment, point fingers, re-traumatize, and reinforce the attached stigma to someone struggling? There can be so many reasons for this behavior:

  • Lack of genuine acceptance of one’s own addiction.
  • Insecurity
  • Selfishness
  • May want others to get better, but not better than themselves.
  • Self-centeredness
  • Inadequacy
  • Lack of understanding about addiction itself.

Some have the built-in forgetter and don’t want to remember where they once were.

There may be other reasons people pass judgment, but understand that judgment in the rooms is more prevalent than many realize. Passing judgment onto recovering people has the potential to perpetuate the stigma that we all long to reverse. 

As we fight our addictions and try to persuade the outsiders that it's a serious illness that shouldn't be stigmatized, we must remove the judgment that still exists within the walls of the sacred places that we meet to heal. Click To Tweet

Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged


Some may not agree that the feeding of stigma occurs within the rooms, but when we are passing judgment, downplaying other’s recovery, and pointing fingers, we are doing just that. 

It’s like, “How dare you talk about us and stigmatize us? We are only allowed to do that to each other”, which doesn’t seem to be kind at all. We do not know what another person is thinking or feeling, and their words or actions may seem contrary to what we believe is recovery, but we do not know their true intentions. 

“The premise of recovery is about one addict/alcoholic helping another. Not one addict/alcoholic judging another.” username= “mdavisattiers”]

If you agree or not, we must reassess our true intentions and our genuine commitment to the recovery process as a whole. We may not connect with everyone that we meet, and we may not agree with everyone, but to help each other without parallel is paramount to what we do.

Don’t Add More Obstacles with Judgment

The recovery process is a difficult road to travel for many. Adding more obstacles for an individual to overcome doesn’t seem supportive in any way. There are those of us who have those hard-liners:

  • Get over it.
  • Suck it up.
  • You’d do whatever when you were using.
  • Man up.
  • Get off the pot or s*!t.

Yes, these are said, but maybe the person is looking for assistance or hope when struggling. These statements may seem beneficial, but they increase the potential of individuals shutting down. No, we can’t hold everyone’s hands, but at least lend an ear. 

Remember: We Were Once A Newcomer


It may be the individual’s first attempt at recovery, and they are unsure of the process, but they continue to show up. 

Most individuals who have sustained their recovery for a significant period may have attempted this numerous times before they reached a comfortable place to continue moving forward in the process. There are times we lose sight of this, and as stated previously, the “built-in forgetter” comes into play.

In our recovery, we must remember that sometimes, we fall into this trap: “No sooner do I conquer a bad habit than I become the biggest critic of anyone who still does what I just stopped doing.” ― Judah Smith

When individuals enter those rooms seeking help, why not help them. Of course, there may be a display of inconsistency, denial, or some manipulation on the part of the newcomer. If we truly understand addiction and the lifestyle associated with it, we know that’s all part of the package. 

We didn’t enter those rooms absent of denial, lying, inconsistency, and manipulation. If we did, why open those doors? We could have chosen a different path. I always remember that act of using substances is only the symptom of the problem. Now that the individuals are no longer using, let’s address the issue. 

Judgment is so insidious and damaging to the already damaged individual. We want the outsiders to view us differently when it comes to stigmatizing addiction, but we must start from within the rooms of recovery to support the efforts.

We have to stop being outstanding lawyers for our own mistakes and excellent judges for the mistakes of others.




Bio: Craig W. Stratton MS, ASCAS

from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davisCraig is an Adjunct Professor at Hudson Valley Community College. He brings his personal experience of 22 years in recovery and his education to his students, ensuring that the next generation of substance abuse counselors understand the knowledge of addiction, but more importantly, know a representative of the addicted population. 

Bringing this human element to his classes, he advocates for recovery and, through his teaching and actions, will help remove the stigmas and myths associated with faceless addicts.

Combining his passions with a purpose is one of his goals. He has worked to help marginalized populations understand their addictions and introduce them to the benefits of recovery as a Case Manager for the homeless and those in the Drug Treatment Court.

He has also counseled adolescents, adults, and couples over the last 14 years in various agencies and worked extensively on Alternatives to Incarceration to incorporate treatment and not incarceration for nonviolent offenders.

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