“Recovery-Speak” – A Dictionary for “Normies” Working in the Field of Addiction
Like people in every industry, addicts in recovery share a private language, dotted with buzz words that are unfathomable to outsiders. Last year I started putting together a short dictionary of “Recovery-Speak” for “normies” (non-addicts) like myself who work in recovery. I’ll publish additional definitions from time to time, and will be glad to receive worthy contributions. Thanks to Pamela Graham, our brilliant Big Book Counselor for the translations. Dedicated to Bill and Los Wilson – did they ever imagine that one day recovery would be so widespread it would have its own lingo?
1) “Are you a friend of Bill W’s?”
Translation: Are you in the 12 Step Program? (Bill W. wrote the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous”)
2) “I have 10 years.”
Translation: I have been sober 10 years.
3) “I work a good program.”
Translation: I stay sober by working the 12 steps and practicing their spiritual principles and by taking other alcoholics through the 12 Steps and by going to regular 12 Step meetings, reporting daily (not necessarily so) to a sponsor who also works a good program, having a commitment such as greeting everyone arriving at a specific 12 Step Meeting.
Translation: Someone in the 12 Step Program who has completed the 12 Steps themselves and who has “had a Spiritual Awakening as a result of these steps” who “sponsors” another alcoholic/addict and guides him/her through the 12 steps as outlined in the Big Book of AA and conveys to the “sponsee” the real meaning of the 12 Steps.
5) “I’m leaving it to my Higher Power.”
Translation: One is ceasing attempts to control the outcome and results of a situation and turning that problem over to resolution to a Higher Power.
6) “I went out.”
Translation: I relapsed and began using alcohol or drugs again.
7) “That’s a trigger.”
Translation: The word “trigger” is not in the Big Book or 12 Steps. It is a treatment center term used to refer to the multitude of things (literally anything & everything!) or emotional upheavals that can prompt an alcoholic/addict to drink or use. Something seen or said makes a person want to drink or use drugs again.
8) “I’m having cravings.”
Translation: Cravings in this term refer to “the phenomenon of craving” which occurs in the body of an alcoholic/addict when alcohol or drugs are ingested. The physical allergy of the body sets off a phenomenon whereby it craves more and more of the substance rather than reaching a point of satiation. Because of this allergic, abnormal reaction his/her body is still demanding yet another drink, a drug, a pill, an injection of heroin, a smoke of crack cocaine.
9) “I slipped.”
10) “One day at a time.”
Translation: This phrase refers to the basis upon which an alcoholic/addict lives his/her life based on the spiritual principles found when they have worked and completed the 12 Steps. It has been misinterpreted by many to be a message of “just don’t drink one day at a time”. Before the experience of the 12 Steps, for an alcoholic/addict of the hopeless variety, this is an impossible task. The inability to do this is what brought him/her into AA or treatment in the first place. Through the experience of the 12 Steps, the disease is held in remission “one day at a time” through the daily practice and commitment to the spiritual principles of this way of life. After completing the 12 Steps, one wakes up each morning and continues to maintain that “gift of sobriety”. One maintains that remission and thus no longer is in the grip of the obsession to drink or use and will not be prey to having a drink or taking an addictive pill or shooting themselves full of heroin.
11) “He hasn’t hit his bottom yet.”
Translation: He has not yet had that profound and life altering “moment of clarity” in which he sees powerfully that he cannot continue life as he has been living it and must seek help.
Translation: This refers to the devastation and havoc caused by the disease in an alcoholic/addict’s life. It can be physical, emotional, spiritual or financial. Like a tornado roaring through people’s lives when the alcoholic/addict is in the grip of the disease, there is wreckage left in its wake.
13) “I have a Commitment.”
Translation: I have taken a position at a 12 Step meeting (welcoming guests, serving refreshments, cleaning up afterwards) in order to be of service and be a part of a 12 Step group.
14) “Med seeking”
Translation: This is a result of the obsession of the mind to find a drug, often a substitute for the alcoholic/addict’s drug of choice. It can be using Vicodin for a small or imagined pain or it can also be prescription shopping with multiple doctors and sources.
15) “Belly button birthday”
Translation: This the natal birthday as contrasted with the “AA Birthday” which marks the anniversary and celebration of an alcoholic/addict’s sobriety date.
16) “Big Book Thumper”
Translation: One who has had the experience of the 12 Steps through the Big Book of AA and is committed to sharing that experience of recovery with another alcoholic/addict who still suffers. It is a person who knows the program of recovery of AA as outlined in the Big Book. It has a negative connotation as well when used by those who have not worked or experienced the 12 Steps from the Big Book, and it connotes a reference to a religious zealot who is quoting and “thumping” the Big Book as they speak.