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My Definition of Recovery

One aspect of my job is that I get to run a Detox group once every week. And I often talk about this very topic: recovery and what it means to me. I always make sure to make clear a distinction that I find to be really important: the difference between abstinence and recovery.

Abstinence: White-Knuckling It

The dictionary defines abstinence like this: “abstinence simply means the willful avoidance of pleasures, especially of food and drink, thought to be harmful or self-indulgent; the act or practice of refraining from some action or from the use of something, especially alcohol.”

A lot of times, you can hear people ‘in the rooms’ talk about “white-knuckling it.” This is a great slang term for merely abstaining from drinking or using drugs. It clearly implies the stress and anxiety of just trying not to use, no matter what. Simply not using isn’t really an option for true alcoholics and addicts. As we already know, addiction isn’t a matter of willpower. Therefore, we need something more, a program of recovery, to support us in staying sober. White-knuckling it means that it’s just a matter of time before a relapse.

True Recovery

I am a believer in the idea of whatever works, use it. Of course, as long as it’s a healthy and productive way of maintaining sobriety. For instance, I don’t believe in the marijuana maintenance plan. I have nothing against marijuana, especially for its medicinal use but, I don’t consider it to be a productive or even reliable way of staying sober. In fact, using pot means that you are not sober. The idea of smoking pot to avoid your (other) DOC is silly to me. I know that if I smoke pot, I will be shooting heroin before the week’s up.

Having a program of recovery for me involves working the 12 Steps with a sponsor, sponsoring others, and going to meetings. I don’t always enjoy meetings but, the way I look at it is that my purpose for being there is to potentially help someone else.

Besides the Steps, I incorporate other things in my life that support my recovery program. Things like mediation, yoga, nutrition, and having (sober) fun. Since getting clean, my life is a bajillion times better. I actually go out and do stuff and enjoy doing it without the use of substances. I have tons of friends, both sober and “normie” – but who understand and respect my choice to be sober. I have gotten back into hobbies that I used to enjoy and I am exploring new interests without the trepidation and self-doubt that I used to harbor in my active addiction.

Recovery, My Definition

In a nutshell, my definition of recovery is living life free and doing it without the use of substances. It’s enjoying genuine belly laughter with good friends. Going out and getting involved in activities that I never would have done as a junkie, like going trampolining (yes, jumping on big trampolines), tap dancing, and sky diving. Oh, it’s nice having the money to do these things now, too.


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