Re-defining Common Terminology in Recovery-Based Programs.


Chances are, we have been exposed to the idea of recovery-based meetings and what they entail. Many times we are encouraged to refer to ourselves as "addicts" or "alcoholics." Identifying as an addict or alcoholic can be hard for some of us who have struggled with shame and ostracism within the addicted population.

My first time at a meeting, I was asked to identify with such terms and I responded with, “I’m not sure yet.” I was surely in denial of an even longer road to admission that my use had become a part of my inevitable demise. Eventually, I cooperated and followed suit, but still remained in denial of who I had become. I was simply not ready to admit that I was addicted. However, what I once misunderstood would become a source of liberation.

The first step of any recovery-based meeting is to identify that substances have become the primary driving force of existence within ourselves. Without it, survival can be too daunting of a task. In other words, we would admit to ourselves and to others that we were powerless over drugs and/or alcohol.

Well, this is just the first part of the first step. It is undeniably simple to identify that substances had become more a of a priority than my basic life necessities. I had identified that I was addicted months before I would ever return to the rooms. 

The second part is to identify the ways in which substance use has impacted our relationships, finances, job, school, sanity, etc. Chances are, our use has caused us much more stress than addressing these aspects head-on.

After allowing ourselves to achieve such a level of surrender, identifying as an addict/alcoholic is really just a consistent, vocal form of practicing the first step whenever prompted to do so.

Some individuals are turned off from the different fellowships who require them to identify as only one or the other; “addict” or “alcoholic.” Differences aside, the only requirement for attendance in these programs is the desire to stop drinking and using. Ultimately, recovery-based meetings support us in complete abstinence from harmful substances, finding purpose, and satisfaction with life. Anything other than an honest program is our decision to make. In hearing the stories of fellow recoverees, bargaining with the idea that one substance can be replaced with another leads them right back to step one, with frustration and defeat.

Referring to ourselves as an addict or an alcoholic, with the intention of recovering, is one of the most effective ways to connect with others and have full disclosure with ourselves. It is our daily decision to be victorious over our addiction.

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