A Recovery Glossary.
Paradox…the extraction of meaning from an apparent incongruity is a common recovery experience (e.g., “to get it, you must give it away;” “when you think you’re looking good, you’re looking bad;” “you can find serenity when you stop looking for it”).
Abstinence-based Recovery…is the resolution of alcohol- and other drug-related problems through the strategy of complete and enduring cessation of the non-medical use of alcohol and other drugs. The achievement of this strategy remains the most common definition of recovery.
Spiritual (Spirituality)…is a heightened state of perception, awareness, performance or being that personally informs, heals, empowers, connects or liberates. For people in recovery, it is a connection with resources within and outside the self. There is a spirituality that springs from pain, a spirituality that springs from pleasure, and a spirituality that can flow from the simplicity of daily life. The power of the spiritual to draw us beyond our normal range of experience is evident in the language of non-ordinary experience: awakening, rapture, peak experience, defining moment, epiphany, rebirth, and ecstasy (see Hitting Bottom, Conversion). The spirituality of fully experiencing the subtlety and depth of the ordinary is depicted in such terms as harmony, balance, centeredness, bliss, serenity, and tranquillity. All of these can be part of the multi-layered experience of addiction recovery (Abstracted from White, 1992). Spiritual Awakening…refers to the progressive changes in character and relationships that recovering people experience in recovery. This incremental process of change is also commonly described as a spiritual “experience” of the educational variety. This gradual awakening stands in marked contrast and is less common than the sudden personal transformation (conversion) experience.
The Spirituality of Imperfection…is recognition that human beings are flawed and make mistakes of various kinds. It is in this recognition and deep acceptance of one’s own imperfection that a new awareness emerges—the recognition and acceptance of the imperfection of others. It is in this second step that the alcoholic finds a framework for identification and relationship with the larger body of humanity (Kurtz, 1999).
Sponsorship…is the practice of mentorship between one recovering person and another. It has a long tradition dating to the Washingtonians (1840s), has been most institutionalized within Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and is also found within many faith-based recovery groups. The latter refer to sponsorship as the “ministry of encouragement.
Surrender…according to Dr. Harry Tiebout’s (1949) classic paper on the subject, is the collapse of “the unconscious forces of defiance and grandiosity” and “accepting without reservation or conflict the reality of his condition and his need for help.” Tiebout noted that such a collapse could mark the beginning of a process of continuing change or could be an ephemeral experience followed by a rigid, primitive hold on sobriety or a return to drinking and the resurgence of defiance and grandiosity. He noted that true surrender was followed not just by sobriety but “internal peace and quiet.” While experiences of acceptance, powerlessness and surrender mark the very core of the change process in Twelve Step recovery, recovery programs for historically disempowered groups often emphasize the self-assertion rather than surrender (see Empowerment).
Empowerment…is the experience of having some power and control over one’s own destiny. Within the recovery context, there are two quite different relationships to power. Among the culturally empowered (those to whom value is ascribed as a birthright), addiction-related erosion of competence is often countered by increased grandiosity and preoccupation with power and control. It should not be surprising then that transformative breakthrough of recovery is marked by a deep experience of surrender and an acceptance of powerlessness. In contrast, the culturally disempowered (those for whom this value has been systematically withheld) are often attracted to psychoactive drugs in their quest for power, only to discover over time that their power has been further diminished. Under these conditions, the initiation of recovery is often marked by the assumption of power and control rather than an abdication or surrender of such power. This point is well-illustrated by the first statement of Women for Sobriety (“I have a life-threatening problem that once had me”), and the “first act of resistance” of the Afro centric model of recovery pioneered by Rev. Cecil Williams in San Francisco (“I will gain control over my life”). In Williams’ words, “a black person hears the call to powerlessness as one more command to lie down and take it” (1992, p. 9). Similar sentiments can be found in Native adaptations of the Twelve Steps, e.g., Step Two: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could help us regain control” (Coyhis, 1999). Empowerment is inspiring, horizon-raising, energizing, and galvanizing. The concept of empowerment applies to communities as well as individuals. It posits that the only solution to the problem of addiction in disempowered communities.
Wellbriety…is a term coined by Don Coyhis (1999) that depicts recovery as more than just symptom suppression. The term implies the pursuit or achievement of global (physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual) health, or “whole health” (Red Road to Wellbriety, 2002). It is analogous to what A.A. co-founder, Bill Wilson, described as “emotional sobriety” (Wilson, 1958).
Hope-based (as opposed to pain-based) Interventions… are interventions into the lives of people with alcohol- and other drug-related problems that rely not on enhancing a pain-based crisis, but on enhancing a hope-inspired leap into recovery. Where traditional pain-based interventions rely on amplifying the experience of alcohol- and other drug-related consequences, hope-based interventions rely on living proof (role models) of what is possible, encouraging change, expressing confidence in the individual’s ability to change, and providing concrete steps of how the recovery journey can begin. Pain-based interventions rely on threats of what we will do TO you; hope-based interventions are based on a promise of what we will do WITH you. Hope-based interventions are particularly important for historically disempowered and personally victimized people who have developed massive capacities for physical and psychological pain and chronic, self-defeating styles of interacting with professional helpers.
(The) Promises…refer to the fruits of recovery that could be expected by working the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before half through! We are going to know a new freedom and happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us— sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 96, 1st edition).
Recovered/Recovering…are terms used to describe the process of resolving, or the status of having resolved, alcohol and other drug problems. The former is drawn primarily from recovery mutual aid groups; the latter is drawn primarily from the treatment industry. Recovered is drawn primarily from individuals who have resolved such problems have been referred to as redeemed (or repentant) drunkard, reformed drunkard, dry drunkard, dry (former) alcoholic, arrested alcoholic, sobriate, ex-addict, and ex-alcoholic. They have been described as sober, on the wagon, drug-free, clean, straight, abstinent, cured, recovered, and recovering. Modern debate has focused on the last two of these terms. While recovering conveys the dynamic, developmental process of addiction recovery, recovered provides a means of designating those who have achieved stable sobriety and better conveys the real hope for a permanent resolution of alcohol and other drug problems. The period used to designate people recovered from other chronic disorders is usually five years without active symptoms (Abstracted from White, 2001b).
Recovery….is the experience of a meaningful, productive life within the limits imposed by a history of addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs. Recovery is both the acceptance and transcendence of limitation. It is the achievement of optimum health—the process of rising above and becoming more than an illness (Deegan, 1988, 1996; Anthony, 1993). Recovery, in contrast to treatment, is both done and defined by the person with the problem (Diamond, 2001). “Recovery” implies that something once possessed and then lost is reacquired. The term recovery promises the ability to get back what one once had and as such holds out unspoken hope for a return of lost health, lost esteem, lost relationships, and lost financial or social status. Recovery, in this sense, is congruent with the concept of rehabilitation—the reacquisition of that which was lost. For those who have pre-existing levels of functioning that were lost to addiction, there is in the term recovery the promise of being able to reach back and pick up the pieces of where one’s life was at before addiction altered one’s life course. For those who never had such a prior level of functioning, the term recovery may be more aptly framed “procovery” or “discovery”—the movement toward that which is new. For those wounded by childhood victimization, the term “uncovery” may be an apt description of the early healing process (White and Chaney, 1993). This reaching back and reaching forward represent two very different positions from which recovery is initiated, and mark the differences between treatment approaches based on rehabilitation versus those based on habilitation.
Recovery Rituals… are activities through which recovery from addiction is enhanced (White, 1996). The multiple pathways of recovery often share four core daily activities:
1) centering rituals,
2) mirroring rituals,
3) acts of self-care,
4) unpaid acts of service.
Recovery Support Groups (Mutual Aid Groups)…are groups of recovering people who meet regularly for fellowship and mutual support.
Reprieve (versus Cure)…is one way of understanding the means through which recovery is attained. In this understanding, recovery is a daily suspension of addiction contingent upon recovery self-management: doing what is necessary to, and avoiding what would undermine, the stability and durability of recovery. There is a second and broader meaning to the term reprieve. In confronting the imminence of death through the experience of addiction, there is often an awareness that every day of living is a reprieve, regardless of one’s health status. What that awareness encourages is a fidelity to personal priorities and the achievement of meaning and pleasure within the confines of each day. When recovering people characterize their addiction as a hidden blessing, it is often in gratitude for what this awareness has added to the quality of their life.
Responsibility…is the acceptance of accountability for past, present and future actions. This value has importance in the context of recovery as the antidote for projection of blame and other strategies of defence characteristic of active addiction.
Restitution…is the process of rectifying harms inflicted on individuals and the community (see Amends).
(Making) Amends… are acts of restitution performed by recovering people for the harms they inflicted on others during the pre-recovery years. This ritual emerges from three of A.A.’s Twelve Steps: Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”; Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”; Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”; Making amends—repaying the literal and symbolic debts accrued in addiction—diminishes guilt and anchors recovery upon the values of responsibility, justice and citizenship. This process also opens up the potential for atonement and forgiveness. In A.A., amends are made only when doing so would not injure others (see Restitution).
Resurrection (as a metaphor of recovery)…refers to characterization of recovery as a rebirth or a return from the dead. The term dates to the Washingtonian Temperance Society, which was also sometimes referred to as the Lazarus (or Resurrection) Society. References to the resurrection of addicted people through the act of recovery continues into the present era (see Williams, 1992, p. 81).
Born Again… is a phrase used to depict the state of spiritual conversion. In the context of recovery, it refers to a type of quantum change characterized by egocide (death of the old self), a new Christ-centred or God (as I understand him)-centred identity, deliverance from desire (craving) and entry into membership in a faith-based community.
Centering Rituals… are regular, alone-time activities that help keep one recovery-focused. Praying, meditating, reading pro-recovery literature, journaling, setting daily goals and taking an end-of-day inventory, and carrying/wearing sacred objects/symbols are common centering rituals of people in recovery. Other such rituals within the history of recovery include fasting, sweating, seclusion, aerobic exercise (running, swimming), chanting, singing, dancing, artistic expression, and pilgrimages to sacred places.
Character Defects (Shortcomings; Wrongs)…within Twelve Step recovery, are those “emotional deformities” that have harmed alcoholics and those close to them. These liabilities include pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth (the “Seven Deadly Sins”). They include obsessions (“instincts gone astray”) with sex, power, money, and recognition, and also self-centeredness, self-pity, intolerance, jealousy, and resentment. The A.A. program suggests that if identified and disclosed via the Forth (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”); Fifth (“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”); Sixth (“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”); and Seventh (“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”) Steps, these “ghosts of yesterday” could be replaced by a “healing tranquillity” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 1981, pp. 42-62). Character Reconstruction…is the process of bringing one’s personal character into congruence with the inspirational values imbedded within recovery frameworks, whether these be Twelve Step groups, secular support structures, religious organizations or cultural revitalization movements.
Character reconstruction underscores that full recovery from severe alcohol and other drug problems entails more than the removal of alcohol and other drugs from another wise unchanged life. It entails instead the transformation of the whole person—creating a character and a lifestyle in which alcohol and other drugs have no place.
Giving It Away…is a phrase that captures one of the many paradoxes of recovery: that the methods and fruits of recovery cannot be fully experienced and understood until they are given to someone else.
Gratitude…is the experience of ultimate reprieve—the gift of one’s own life. It is the source of such recovery values as humility and service.
Mutual Aid Groups… are groups of individuals who share their experience, strength and hope about recovery from addiction. Often called “self-help” groups, they more technically involve an admission that efforts at self-help have failed and that the help and support of others is needed (Miller and Kurtz, 1994; Kurtz L., 1997). Mutual aid groups are based on relationships that are personal rather than professional, reciprocal rather than fiduciary, free rather than fee-based, and enduring rather than transient (see Indigenous Healers and Institutions).
Natural Recovery… is a term used to describe those who have initiated and sustained recovery from a behavioral health disorder without professional assistance or involvement in a formal mutual aid group. This type of resolution of alcohol and other drug problems has been variously christened “maturing out” (Winick, 1962, 1964); “auto remission” (Vaillant,1983; Klingeman, 1992); “self-initiated change” (Biernacki, 1986); “unassisted change”(McMurran, 1994); “spontaneous remission” (Anthony and Helzer, 1991); “de-addiction”(Klingeman, 1991); “self-change” (Sobell, Sobell, Toneatto, and Leo, 1993); “naturalrecovery” (Havassey, Hall and Wasserman, 1991); “self-managed change” (Copeland,1998) and “quantum change” (Miller and C’de Baca, 2001).
Motivational Interviewing… is a non-confrontational approach to eliciting recovery-seeking behaviors developed by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick. The approach emphasizes relationship-building (expressions of empathy), heightening discrepancy between an individual’s personal goals and present circumstances, avoiding argumentation (activation of problem-sustaining defense structure), rolling with resistance (emphasizing respect for the individual experiencing the problem and their necessity and ability to solve the problem),and supporting self-efficacy (expressing confidence in the individual’s ability to recovery and expressing confidence in recovery) (Miller and Rollnick, 1991).Multiple Pathways of Recovery (Multiple Pathway Model)…reflect the diversity of how individuals resolve problems in their relationship with alcohol and other drugs. Multiple pathway models contend that there are multiple etiological pathways into addiction that unfold in highly variable patterns, courses and outcomes that respond to quite different treatment approaches, and are resolved through a wide variety of recovery styles and support structures (White, 1996). Groups like the Santa Barbara, CA Community Recovery Network openly proclaim themselves:…an advocacy organization whose primary purpose is to fully represent the recovery community in its diversity. As such, we have no bias or formal opinion concerning the manner or means by which people achieve or maintain recovery (The Nature of Recovery, 2002).
The New Recovery Advocacy Movement…depicts the collective efforts of grassroots organizations of recovered/recovering people and their families whose goals are to;
1) provide an unequivocal message of hope about the potential of long-term recovery from behavioral health disorders,
2) to advocate for public policies and programs that help initiate and sustain such recoveries.
The core strategies of New Recovery Advocacy Movement are;
1) recovery representation,
2) recovery needs assessment,
3) recovery education,
4) recovery resource development,
5) policy (rights) advocacy,
6) recovery celebration, and
7) recovery research (White, 2000c).
You can find the full list of the Recovery Terms Glossary at the link below the glossary contains more than 200 terms related to recovery from addiction.