Recovery By Any Other Name

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention or maybe have and don’t care, we are talking about how we define recovery and what recovery means. It makes me wonder whether we got the right name for what it is that we are talking about. Recovery may not adequately describe what it is most of us find when we put down the booze, drugs, food, sex or whatever. Maybe we should come up with a new name or is it too late? I mean if you walk down the street and say I am in recovery the person probably figures out that you are in recovery from some type of addiction. In a perfect world I would like to describe my recovery differently. When I walked into a room 24 years ago knowing that my war with drugs and alcohol was over and I had lost, I figured my life was over. I figured the best that was in store for me was maybe a few laughs with some brain damaged drunks in a basement of a church on Boylston Street in Boston. As most of you who are reading this probably have figured out that is not what happened. I was reborn. 24 years ago, I walked blindfolded into the Garden of Eden. It took me a while to take the blindfold off, but the people I met in recovery told me I would get a life beyond my wildest dreams and they were right. I had no idea there was such a thing as a 4th dimension or that I would be rocketed into it but there is and I was. So, describing this unbelievable state as recovery seems a little tepid given what I have experienced the last 24 years. The unbelievable, transforming pain, the exhilarating joy, the occasional transcendent peace. Being in recovery means that a persons life has new meaning and new purpose but it is much more than that. It really is a new state of being, and it is as if we have been transformed and have astro-traveled into a new dimension where the particulars of our lives are the same but everything is completely and totally different. How do we describe that? It’s new, its fresh, its changed, there is healing, there is mending, but all of these have a connotation of restoring something to it’s original state. We know that is not the case. Is the status quo good enough? Maybe we should just let sleeping dogs lie, but maybe not? Should we continue naming our journey as recovery?  Hearing people say that they are clean and sober is a way to give the name recovery as a concept.  I am clean or I am sober gives a name to their current state, and others have said that they are free from their addictions.  Perhaps a new description will live somewhere in freedom. Anybody out there got any ideas? What would you name your journey if you could name it anything?


~ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford on June 5, 2010.

6 Responses to “Recovery By Any Other Name”

  1. The word recovery or recovering is a common way to describe the experience people have when dealing with an illness, including addiction. It is only a word, however and it cannot possibly include all of the experiences, feelings, and amazing changes we go through in addiction recovery. 18 years ago I had the same experience as you, and I have been in recovery ever since. I think the world would be amazed by what we go through to get where we are now, but I don’t know if another word would relay the message any better. If we told people we were ‘transformed’ they may look at us and not understand what we mean. So, I am ok and proud of the name recovery. I’m Trina, and I’m an addict in recovery.

  2. Well, Chris, while I wish there was a better word to describe the tremendous gift that we’ve received, I think the word “recovery” works well enough. It encompasses all of my various addictions. As William S. Burroughs used to say, and it’s certainly true for me, “I am addicted to substances that have not yet been synthesized.” “Recovery” keeps it simple.

    Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in on this.

  3. Chris, I honestly don’t think it should be labeled. Again, negative words will cause people to treat in a negative way. Having said that – a person who has overcome cancer has mental and physical problems they need to worry about every day – just like former substance users. So why is it a positive to say you are a cancer survivor and not a “recovering alcoholic”? Negative words and what those negative words bring to other‘s thoughts. However, both have to deal with the same problems in the end including the ‘when, if at all, will it happen again“. So how do you change your life and give people a reason to trust you? By changing the label. Perhaps after a certain point in “recovery” you can be labeled as a “substance coach”. It is still admitting to the disease but puts it in a positive and allows the person to help others. But until that point maybe just a vague word like “Transformers” perhaps?

  4. On November 10th..1963, I made my first 12 step call after being sober since September 23,1963. As outlined in the Big Book, I told him my story and added It is a SECOND CHANCE . The man let out a gasp and look me directly in the eyes and said, Me too.

  5. Hi there,

    Glad to have found this blog–I’ve read “Symptoms…” numerous times at this point, and I thank you!

    The one word that comes to mind and is perhaps most fitting to what you’re describing, in lieu of “journey” (which is really how I’ve come to think of my own recovery), is “chrysalis”–a concept sort of opposite from trying to turn a pickle back into a cucumber. 🙂

    Thanks again.

  6. Don’t let it get
    you down if it did not happen today for be Blessed that you lived
    another day to try and make it happen. I would perfer to crawl and get
    where I am going then to rush and miss out on all the wonders and beauty

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