Every so often around the 12-step rooms you’ll hear someone say something like, “My name’s (…), and I’m a grateful recovered (alcoholic, addict, codependent, etc.)”

“Recovered” is meant to remind us that there is more to life than meetings and hanging around with people from the rooms — that recovery is learning to live the way “normal” people do and moving back into the mainstream of life. Healthy people who work a good program have nothing to fear from this return to the world outside, and much to gain: continued renewal of self respect; new associations with people whose main focus is life in the world rather than just the Steps; business advantages; broader horizons, and myriad other things. 

I get that.  So a few years ago I decided to try “recovered” on for size. I began referring to myself that way: as a recovered person. I stopped after a bit, though, because it made me uncomfortable.  Also, I thought it made me seem like an attention-seeker in the rooms, where most people still refer to themselves as “recovering.”   It seemed presumptuous, and maybe even a little arrogant.

I came to recovery a physical, emotional and spiritual wreck, with just enough brain power left to recognize the reasons for my troubles and the way out of them. I am one of those people who has had the good fortune not to “relapse.” When I tell my story, I say that with tongue in cheek and then explain that while it’s technically true that I haven’t had a drink or drug since 1989, it isn’t strictly true that I haven’t relapsed.

Relapse begins when we begin to fall back into the old behavior and ways of thinking, whether or not we go so far as to pick up our drug of choice (or a different addiction). Given that more realistic definition, I’ve relapsed several times.  I didn’t have to use.

One of the things that leads to the old behavior and ways of thinking and living is getting too big for our  britches. That’s why “recovered” feels uncomfortable. I know that my continued recovery depends on staying mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy, and especially on remaining humble.

My gut tells me that — for me — “recovered” is the wrong way of looking at what is really a process, not an event.  One of the most valuable things I was told early on was “trust your gut.”  

If it feels icky, it probably is.

Your recovering friend,


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