It’s been nearly four years since I took my last drink of alcohol, and since that time I have been to literally hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It’s customary to introduce yourself before you speak at a meeting. I always say, “Hi, I’m Jami and I’m an alcoholic.” Some people introduce themselves differently, but it’s usually something close to that. A handful of times over the years, I have heard people refer to themselves as a “recovered alcoholic,” and my first thought is usually that they just don’t get it – no matter how long they have been sober. I’m probably wrong about that in some cases, they may very well stay sober and happy until the day they die. I know that people practice recovery differently, and that what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Even my husband and I have a different way of approaching the program, and we’re both still sober.
The problem that I have with using recovered instead of recovering is that it makes it sound final, like it’s done and over and can no longer affect me – like the chicken pox: I had it once, I recovered, and I’ll never get it again. It implies that you can be returned to the person you were before, and for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
You see, being a recovering person instead of recovered one, hasn’t returned me to who I was before alcoholism, and it isn’t something that has ended and no longer affects me. It is something that goes on. Forever. I will always be in recovery, and I’m good with that, for several reasons.
One, I know that I am not cured of alcoholism. I’ve been given a daily reprieve and I have to remain diligent to not return to where I was when I was drinking actively. I know that if I grow complacent, and think that I am recovered and that alcohol no longer poses a risk to me, I’m in danger. While I no longer worry day-to-day that I am going to relapse, I am very aware that booze is still out there and that if I have even one drink it’s game on. Recovering, rather than recovered, keeps me on my toes.
Two, recovering means that I am a work in progress and that I have the luxury of continuing to work on myself, strengthening those things about me that are positive, and improving the things that challenge me. Believing that I am still recovering fosters my desire for self-awareness. It keeps me engaged in becoming a better person, not just a sober one.
Three, recovering rather than recovered keeps me right-sized. As long as I remember that I am not over this alcoholism thing, and that I am no better or worse than every newcomer and old-timer, I don’t run the risk of self-righteousness or self-loathing. Those are two things that plagued me when I was drinking and recovering keeps me away from them.
Lastly, recovering rather than recovered reminds me that I don’t have all of the answers. I still need help no matter how many days I put between me and my last drink. It’s what makes it more comfortable than it used to be to ask for help when I need it. It’s why I have a sponsor and go to meetings. It’s what makes me part of a huge fellowship of strong and courageous people.
I think, what it boils down to is that recovering, instead of recovered, is what works for me. It may just be semantics, but it puts me in the right mindset to continue on the path of sobriety and recovery. I find joy and strength and health in the process of recovering.
So, I think I’ll stay right here recovering. Forever, God willing.
5 thoughts on “Recovering, or Recovered? Which am I?”
Hi Jami, I loved reading your blog post. It is so honest and refreshing! I wish I could say that I accept to be in recovery for the rest of my life…
I love this! I feel the same, although I’m only on day 2, it feels like this is going to be a journey that I’m always on (I’ve now got the Pixar Cars song in my head…”life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long” Sorry!).
I think that’s why I decided on Becoming Sober as a name, it’s a process and one that we’ll be learning new things about everyday.
I’ll be recovering right here alongside you.
I think many of us, when we hear “recovered”, we hear “cured”, which as you mentioned, we are not.
I am on the “recovered” side, in general, (and I know I am prob in the minority) but I know that from experience this debate just gets some people worked up, so I usually avoid the topic altogether, or just call it “recovereding” lol. I can get all BB Thumper and say that the book mentions “recovered” 16 times, and “recovering” twice, and that is in the Family Afterward / To Wives section and refers to the (man) in early recovery, that they tell us to introduce ourselves as recovered alcoholics, etc. but again, this is a see-saw thing. And it wouldn’t change anyone’s mind anyways.
I will admit that I just don’t mention either word, so I don’t get into an argument over who is right. I think that like you mentioned, it’s what works for us. And that is where I tend to leave it – if “recovering” works, then you’re recovering! If “recovered” works, then you’re recovered! In the end, if you are happy, content, sober and being of service to others, then that is what matters most!
I am so happy to hear that you’re more than 4 years on! Congrats! And happy for the hubby as well.
Hope you are doing well (it does sound like it!)
(aka Message In a Bottle)
I want to be the 97 year old who still reads self help books, so I’m with you in the idea that recovery can extend a lifetime!
That was a big mindset change for me.