Teeing Up Addiction Labelling – The Tiger Woods Edition


We’ve seen the mug shot – droopy and listless eyes, saggy face, dishevelled features.

I am sure my mugshot is similar.

There has been a lot of hand-wringing from barstool therapists and sober champions alike who have been quick to jump on the idea that Tiger Woods is a drug addict. I have watched many folks online tweeting about this and immediately making assumptions about Eldrick Tont Woods and his issues. It was quite astounding at how many people made their diagnoses without having any other information other than a picture and a meek apology from the golf star himself.

I read an excellent article this morning about this. There have been a few insightful articles concerning this as well, and what it comes down to is that we don’t know Mr. Woods. I certainly don’t. We are familiar with his amazing golf accomplishments and beyond elite-level play. We know about his millions of dollars, his endorsements and his choice of female companionship. But very few actually know the man. And in that regard, I cannot state much about his personal life. And that includes whether or not he’s an addict.

It’s unfair of me to label him without knowing it all. And even then, it’s not my place to do so.

One large part of recovery is in sharing our stories. Why do we do that? Why bother? I mean, we all knew how to drink. We know the lows, the depression, the hangovers, the destruction of relationships and jobs. We understand this. Yet why do we share our stories?

It’s simple – so that others can identify.

It wasn’t until I was at a 12-step meeting and I heard a man tell his story that I realised that I was truly an alcoholic. It was like this guy was reading my mail – he described me to a tee. I could identify with how he felt, how drinking affected him, how he acted out and behaved. And since then I have heard countless other tales, from teenagers to seniors, from all different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, discuss alcoholism in a way that I truly understood. I was one of them.

When I see a newcomer at a meeting, I don’t assume they are an alcoholic. Most would. It seems fair enough that if someone decides to go to a 12-step meeting, then they certainly must be an alkie. But that is not often the case. There are a lot of heavy drinkers who may have been told they were alcoholics. Or perhaps loved ones have urged them to go. But I have seen many people in the rooms who weren’t alcoholics. They didn’t identify. They didn’t see themselves in anyone. They realised later on that they did have the power and control over alcohol that we alcoholics simply do not. They just chose to drink. I never had that choice deep into my alcoholism.

The most powerful step is that first step where one self-identifies as an alcoholic. I can’t, nor do I tell anyone, that they’re an alcoholic or not. It’s not my job. But I can discuss what it was like for me, and to share some literature and let them decide for themselves. Even when I think that there is a 99% chance that they are an alcoholic, it’s still not up to me to diagnose them. It needs to come from them, from their churning guts and foggy spirit.

Many clean and sober folks are often the first to make the leap and start pointing fingers at someone who they think should be joining the ranks of recovery. I understand that we see many things in them that we see in ourselves, but I feel it’s unfair for me to slap a label on someone I don’t know. As that one article states, many people make dumb mistakes involving alcohol and drugs, and often that includes getting behind the wheel. Not everyone with a DUI is an alcoholic. I have a DUI and I am an alcoholic, but I am in the minority. Most of the people in the DUI class I had to take as part of my license reinstatement were people who made lapses in judgement. In fact, a few of them mentioned that they were busted while reaching into their glove compartments, car off, keys in pocket, to get the business card of a designated driving company.

I once wrote a post on this blog about our troubled ex-mayor, Rob Ford, discussing whether he was an alcoholic or not. I pulled the post after a day or two because I felt that it wasn’t my place to make that decision. I wasn’t being fair and I didn’t know that man. I only knew what I saw in the newspaper.

So is Tiger Woods an addict? I have no idea. But it’s up to him to decide. He may have mixed those medications as he stated and perhaps that will be last we hear of it. Is his sex addiction finding another outlet? No clue. I am not his sponsor or his therapist. I am not him.

My role in recovery is to focus on my recovery, and to be of service to others. That’s it. It’s not about trying to shame others or to pigeonhole them as one thing or another. It’s about just being there and showing others that it can be done. And if and when those who struggle want to be a part of recovery, I welcome them with open arms.

Until then, it’s none of my business.


29 Comments Add yours

  1. Fantastic post. And guess what? I am one of those people who looks at everyone as a potential or actual alcoholic. Thanks for helping me “see the light.”

    1. Paul S says:

      Thank you! You know, I was guilty of that, especially early on. I had almost anyone who put alcohol to their lips as a potential alkie! I was on hyper-awareness alert.

      And this is not an indictment on us who do that (and I guarantee that we all do that), but just a reminder to myself to have a more measured response. My all-or-nothing needs tempering! Thanks for the read and comment 🙂

  2. ainsobriety says:

    That is a truly insightful post. The reality is recovery is a personal journey, assisted by others.
    When we start telling others how to take their personal journey we on not living ours.

    I often see articles about drunk drivers and one can surmise they are not actually alcoholics, they are usually people who made a stupid decision. Would they be better of never drinking again? My bias is that everyone is better off never drinking.

    I have to say I don’t like the word alcoholic. But I remember swearing I wouldn’t drink and yet I still opened the bottle and drank. It scared me. I do everything I can to return to that place.

    My heart goes out to Tiger Woods. It must be very hard to live in the spotlight.


    1. Paul S says:

      Thank you Anne.

      You know, I have been thinking about what you said regarding the term “alcoholic”. I know there have been some other articles as of late talking about it, and I think it’s worth delving into. I am thinking I may podcast that one, but as a quick mention, I use the term “alcoholic” as a place holder, or shorthand if you will for me, as for someone who cannot drink again and abuses it. It’s like when people fear the word “God” in 12 step literature. I tell them it’s a place holder word. It’s shorthand for their Higher Power…to not attach something else that doesn’t make sense.

      Anyways, thanks for your comments. I agree that it must be hard being under scrutiny and the spotlight all the time. I am not a fan of Mr. Woods, although I respect him as a golfer, but I do feel bad for him too.


  3. ainsobriety says:

    Yikes. Not to return to that place. Sometimes 3 little letters are important!

    1. Paul S says:

      ha ha…I figured as much!

  4. A-men brother. One of societies biggest ills is chronicled here. Really nicely. We are so obsessed with other people. Especially celebrities. It’s all this big distraction that keeps us from focusing on ourselves. It’s like we don’t see the celebrities as people, but just pin yada as we can knock around for our own enjoyment. But it’s weird because we were the ones that turned them in the celebrity in the first place. Craziness. Sounds like whatever the case, prescription pills or whatever, the guy has some illness.

    1. Paul S says:

      Hey Mark – I can’t imagine being under the magnifying glass all the time. It’s a whole different world, and you’re right – we don’t see them as “people” any more, just entities who we feel we can tear apart at our whim. As for Mr. Woods, he did have a sex addiction, apparently, so who knows. It could be moving around, as it is apt to do, or it’s a one off. Either way, I wish him the best.
      Thanks again for being here, Mark!

  5. Hearon (HD) says:

    Great post and insight. You’ve probably seen me say a hundred times either “surrender” or “acceptance.”‘ Both of those are personal things; I cannot “surrender” for you and I cannot “accept” for you your alcoholism. I KNEW in my heart the truth about me, and for that reason I believe most people do, too. I will admit I was relieved when the evidence backed up his claim of no alcohol; otherwise we would have been watching a tragedy unfold. Hope that won’t prove to be the case.

    1. Paul S says:

      Well said, Hearon! I agree completely that I cannot read your BB for you, nor can I “make” you accept something. It’s all on us to find this path on our own.

      As for Mr. Woods, yeah I too was a bit relieved about the no booze. As far as where he goes from here…no idea. But I wish him well.

  6. Roderick says:

    I do not think that everyone is better off not drinking. Alcohol is as old as the hills. Jesus used it. It can make life gloriously romantic and exciting. Some people criticize Jesus for being a wine bibber, but I find that unfounded, and small minded. I knew Rob Ford, and I know he loved ice cream, because I saw how excited he got at Baskin and Robbins at Humbertown. I like this piece because it veers away from the blame game and the finger pointing and the war on alcohol.
    In fact, I find it hilarious that the Don Cherry show is sponsored by a prohibition beer. It’s your choice. Do not blame one of nature’s finest gifts to man. Blame human nature, if you must blame.

    1. Paul S says:

      Roderick – thank you. Thank you for saying what I have been saying for a while, but have been in the minority amongst my recovery peeps – that I have nothing against alcohol. I have nothing against the ads. I have nothing against what people do with it. It’s their choices. Booze has been around forever and forever so shall it be. People will ferment anything to get that buzz. Who am I to come down on some people who have a few after-work cocktails? Who am I to criticise a couple who have a picnic in the park and share some wine? Of course I wish no harm to anyone, and I respect people drinking responsibly. I am just not one of those people! But I am not one to cry out that alcohol is evil, etc. A pencil can become a weapon in the wrong hands. Why remove pencils from an artist, or a child or whatnot?
      Anyway, I agree with you completely. And yes, lots of pics of Rob Ford with ice cream cones – I remember!

  7. jeffstroud says:

    Got that right! LOL Nice work here, no it is not our “job” or our business as an alki or a normal to diagnosis another person. we are not them and we don’t know what their situation is. That is why in the rooms and 12 steps there is a step that we or they must take; the 1st Step, Admit they are or have an addiction.

    1. Paul S says:

      Yes! Thank you Jeff for this (and my apologies for the late response). We can do one step 100% and that is the first step. I can’t do it for you, and I know sometimes we do try to do that (at least I did – in my zeal to help!) I can only show them how I did it and leave it at that.

      Thanks for the read and comments, my friend!

      1. jeffstroud says:

        It is always a pleasure to read your blog as well as informative if not enlightening… Hey you respond when you can, no problem!
        I have an anniversary coming up on the 9th, it always amazes me that I made it past the first few days…

        1. Paul S says:

          The 9th! Very exciting! I wish you the very best – you are amazing!

  8. This is something I learned, too.
    I still have to remind myself at times.
    One person in a meeting says she is alcohol dependent.
    And at first I thought she was not taking responsibility for her drinking.
    But then it was pointed out to me by a wise person like yourself, that it is not my place to determine her “label”. It’s up to her doctor, and her.
    I agree 100% with this post. It is such a good reminder for me to not label people, and to just worry about myself.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Wendy – wonderful insight there! True about the labels, and I know that a lot of folks have issues with the “A” word – and I have my thoughts on that (maybe a podcast or blog post here soon). But in the end it’s not up to me, as you wisely suggested!

  9. Lisa Neumann says:

    A quick hello and thank you for some sound reading today. I am still hinged on self-judgment so it isn’t easy to point the finger at anyone else. Then I got thinking—maybe I am learning to forgive myself. I just posted on my feelings about making living amends and going to jail at 3+ years sober. (No mugshot available—darn). I love the program you work Paul. I’ve come to expect excellence from your journey. Lis

    1. Paul S says:

      Aww Lisa! I love when you stop by. Makes me very happy.
      I will see your post about living amends – can’t wait to read (will literally go over after I comment here).
      Thank you on your kind words – I don’t feel like I am working “the” program, but I guess I am trying to work something (post here to follow soon on this) – so thank you. I am in the midst of a shift I think, and perhaps you will read it and let me know what you think. I know you will have some insight to it.

  10. Kristin says:

    Such a thin line for me.
    But it boils down to the fact that
    I can’t qualify for you, and you can’t qualify for me.
    If I get to share this portion of the path with you, amazing. But before this point in the road, and after, it’s impossible for our journeys to be the exact same as each other’s.
    That said, I’m grateful to be able to share this road with you, Paul.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Kristin! Of course we go down the same path, but in the end it’s our own path, and we share some parts of the road. We can’t do each other’s work, but we can be of service to one another.
      Glad to be doing this with you.


  11. Great post Paul. I have so much trouble with the A word! It’s ridiculous really, its just a word:)

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks! You know, I think I am going to do a podcast on the “A” word – seems a lot going on with it as of late!

  12. Great post. It is hard to admit to yourself that you have a problem with Alcohol. But when you have figured it out, it’s easier to do something about it.

    1. Paul S says:

      thank you for this. I can choose to go into recovery, and that’s for sure. I may have been beaten down by my alcoholism, but I certainly can decide to get help.

  13. good post Paul, and a lesson for us all.

  14. cyclehall says:

    Thank you for your post. Not so many people see it this we. We addicts understand – or should. I know when I first heard another’s story and I understood, “That is me.” For the first time in my life I understood by hearing another’s story.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thank you for the comment! And I agree – I still remember that first time I heard “my story” and it blew me away. That was when I realized for the first time that I wasn’t alone. Thank you.

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