I am a recovered alcoholic. To someone who is unfamiliar with the recovery world in general, or Alcoholics Anonymous in particular, that might not seem like a controversial thing to say. But for some in AA, it can be triggering. It has to do with the seemingly subtle difference between saying that I am a “recovered alcoholic” or an “alcoholic in recovery.” But is it a distinction without a difference?
Some people in the recovery world prefer to say that they are in recovery. For them, it is a recognition that they are not “cured.” That their continuing sobriety and recovery depends on constant vigilance. The fear is that saying they are recovered somehow implies they are at the end of the journey. And, to these same people, the mentality that the journey – and, therefore, the work required to complete the journey – is over and behind them and could lead to the very real possibility of relapse.
The “Big Book” of AA uses the word “recovered” in the title page where it says: “The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism.” If I have the flu and am getting better but still exhibiting symptoms, I say that I am recovering from the flu. If I no longer exhibit symptoms, I say that I am recovered from the flu. That is how I think about my own recovery. I no longer have to fight a daily battle to stay sober. For me, the obsession to drink was lifted from me long ago. And, for me, it is important that I not think of myself as broken. I am not.
None of that means I am cured. Nor will I ever be (I state that not as a scientific fact, but as an acknowledgement of my addictive tendencies). My continuing recovery is dependent on the maintenance of a fit spiritual condition, which includes attending and participating in recovery meetings. That has worked for me for over 22 years.
AA is founded on the principles of patience, love, and tolerance. If you prefer to think of yourself as “in recovery,” I have no argument with that if that works best for you. If you prefer to think of yourself as “recovered,” then that should be fine, too. I am in favor of whatever helps to keep you sober and engaging in recovery work.
AA is a recovery program that many have found to be helpful. LCL supports people at all stages of recovery and engaged in a wide range of recovery programs, including AA.