The 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.