Words like "addict," "abuser" and "alcoholic" are widely used indiscriminately to describe people who struggle with substance use issues and are laden with negative connotations for much of the culture. As a psychologist who treats substance use disorders I usually discourage my clients and their families from using these words to describe themselves or their loved one.
I know that substance abuse problems vary in terms of severity, fright and heartbreak, and yet I am optimistic! In research and clinical work alike, I've seen the evidence over the past 40 years that families and friends make a difference in helping someone who struggles with drinking, drugs or other compulsive behaviors. Often, it is the critical difference.