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Addiction - recovered vs. recovery

The words "recovered" and "recovery" in addiction mean different things to different people and can cause some confusion. I've had quite a bit of email over the years on this point, so I thought it time to write an article on the subject.

For some addicts, they never consider themselves recovered, but on a continual recovery - whether they've been clean and sober for a few months or decades. For these people, they see themselves as being in recovery until they die. There's nothing wrong with that at all - whatever it takes to keep a person sober (as long as it doesn't harm anyone else) is a good thing. As addicts, we need to play all sorts of mind games on ourselves to act as reminders about our condition - I certainly do.

I use the term "recovered" and sometimes I'm asked how I can consider myself as such. Am I any different to those people who consider themselves in recovery? Not at all - I have the same disease and I can never drink or use again; it's that simple. I do many of the things that others in recovery do in order to keep away from that what threatens my survival. 

The way I explain being "recovered" is comparing it to having another sort of serious injury, for example, a broken neck. You recover, but the neck is never as strong again - push it past its limits, it will break again. The more it breaks, the weaker it becomes until the injuries either kill you or totally incapacitate you - and you can never know which injury will be the last straw. 

We can also recover from a heart attack, but the heart is weakened and the next attack is more likely to be fatal. Steps must be taken to decrease the likelihood of another attack. Once you've had a heart attack, a doctor will never tell you "well, I think you've got 5 coronaries left in you before The Big One". Rather, they emphasize you must avoid another incident at all costs as the next one may be a life-snuffer.

This site is sometimes the first brush with recovery an addict or their family has and they aren't familiar with all the terminology.

"Recovered" is a term people new to dealing with addiction are more comfortable with than "in recovery" because of the hope factor, the light at the end of the tunnel. They might compare "in recovery" as someone convalescing in a hospital bed, or suffering the remnants of the flu. It can tend to indicate that if they are feeling the bite of withdrawals, those feelings may never subside to a manageable level; and as all of us know who've been clean and sober for a while, they do.

I do try to make it very clear throughout my writings though that recovered doesn't mean ever being able to use or drink again. There's a big difference between recovery vs. cure - and the latter is something I never allude to as I don't believe a cure exists. 

While I'm recovered, I'm certainly not cured - I'm just one drink away from the gutter and the hell I left back in the 90's. I am so convinced that there is no cure that I don't even bother reading articles about "breakthroughs" in curing alcoholism. I certainly wouldn't put my hand up to test these cures - there's just so much at risk. I just prefer to focus on being "recovered" and thankful each day I remain that way. 

Michael Bloch

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