Recovery…Recovered That Is The Question (Part 1)

black-and-white-man-person-eyesThe 12 step programs says that once one is in recovery they are always in recovery. Some use the term “recovered” when speaking about overcoming their addiction to drugs and alcohol. Which is correct, in recovery or recovered? And does it matter? The terms we use to describe ourselves and others matter. Language matters; however, do we make exceptions for those who are no longer using drugs and alcohol? Is it fair to say they are “in recovery?” When a person quits cigarettes they are called ex smokers.

Being in recovery means you are admitting your addiction to drugs or alcohol and that you are on a path of continual self-discovery and growth. When one says they are “recovered” are they still on a continual path of self-discovery and growth? I guess it depends on who you ask. Being in recovery means that every day you are taking “one day at a time.” It is common for those who have twenty years of sobriety to still have cravings if they go to the same neighborhood where they once used or to see an old friend they once used with. If someone says they are “recovered” are they still admitting these cravings and day to day experiences of being an addict?

An addict is someone who has a disease, and their drug of choice is the most important thing in their lives. In their eyes, that sip of wine or whatever they “score” is what they think will fulfill their lives and make them whole. This person is saying they don’t need family, friends, a car, their home – nothing. All the addict thinks about in active addiction is getting more drugs, getting higher, going further away from reality so they don’t have to deal with actual reality. They fail to realize that in this process they push away any chance of connection and love from those who care about them most.

Is an addict who says they are in recovery is defining themselves today by who they were yesterday? Does this lesson who a person is or weaken their character by creating an easy crutch if they ever act out or make a mistake? Do we just give someone a pass when they say they are an addict when they screw up? The line is not clear, but we must think about why a person is seeking help in the first place. Addicts seek help because their lives are usually spiraling out of control. Mental health professionals or substance abuse counselors generally step in once the client fully admits they have a problem and need help. We now know that alcoholism is a disease. Due to the stigma of seeking help and the stigma around alcoholism, even getting to the point of being able to say, “Hi, I’m John, and I’m an alcoholic” can be a victory by itself. Admitting one’s own weaknesses is a mark of bravery and courage.

6 thoughts on “Recovery…Recovered That Is The Question (Part 1)

  • Interesting article
    Language is the key here
    The question is how do you define yourself today on your journey ? As a person who is a person living in recovery or s person still recovering daily who is clean and sober ? The first removes stigma and Shame associated with the words addict or alcoholic. I was told to keep this part of the program simple addict in NA and if I go to AA because that is the only meeting then I concede with the group conscience and say Hi I am An Alcoholic” . Recently I had a person not in recovery tell me I will have recovered when I am buried in my grave ? Mm this poses another question for part 2.

  • For me, addressing this question is an indication of where I am in my recovery. Thanks to the 12 Steps and the fellowship of AA, I have been sober for over 15 years now, and I now regard my self as “recovered”, rather than recovering.

    Growing and thriving in long-term recovery involves continuous work on myself. Through this work I have come to know that whatever we put after the words, “I am” makes a very powerful statement. If I continue to say “I am an alcoholic”, I feel I am staying stuck where I was in the madness of active alcoholism, which is no longer the case. I am not the same person as the one who reached for a drink to avoid dealing with life. I have changed. This does not mean that I am not aware of what will happen if I do pick up; it means I’m a different person form the one who drank.

    In meetings however, I still introduce myself as a grateful, recovering alcoholic, because I don’t want to confuse anyone who is early in sobriety or struggling to put the drink down. I know very well how we can latch onto a tiny nuance of possibility that it’s OK to take a drink.

    My recovery is ongoing, but it is no longer driven by fear. I have faith that I am being looked after, that the universe has my back, so to speak. My work on the 12 steps in my recovery opened up the spiritual side of my life and I am so grateful for that, as it has changed everything.

    I also take comfort from the Foreword to the First edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, printed in 1939, which says,

    ” We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more then one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.”

    • I’m and addict and see my recovery as an ongoing process.I still go to meetings, do step work and have a sponsor, 27 yrs later.


  • I have always felt uncomfortable with people who use the term “recovered” to describe their journey. In my mind is the fact that it is “one day at Time”; no ifs or buts or maybes.
    Each day I am only one arms length away from my next drink; there is no cure. I just wish there was!
    Each and every day I have to work steps 1-3 to maintain my sobriety. Almost all of the long, long term sober people I know will say the same without hesitation.
    Moreover, there is a dangerous sub group here in the South of England who literally “preach” recovery, through the Big Book, held under their arms like the bible, waiting to greet newcomers.
    This faction threaten the unity of AA, however, the wisdom of the elders does not seek to shut them down but has fought to keep them out of Intergroup. Received wisdom says that they will not survive over time but are free to make a splinter group of their own which will not be affiliated to AA.
    My only concern with this is that vulnerable alcoholics, seeking help and support could turn up at one of those meetings; who could be sucked into a quasi religious group or run a mile and perhaps miss out completely at the chance of recovery

    • thank god there are meeting all over and present themselves in different ways as the traditions allow. Thank you for responding to my blog post.


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