Are You a Recovered Addict or Recovering Addict?

There are two camps in the recovery world, those that think of themselves as recovered and those that think of themselves as recovering. Which group are you in?

In recovery there are two different camps, so to speak. There are those individuals who say that they are recovering addicts, while others say they are recovered addicts. At first glance you might think there is no difference but I disagree.

Are You Recovered?

First, if I consider myself recovered that means that my addiction is cured and that I have no chance of returning to my former state of disease. In other words, I have nothing to worry about. This is a dangerous place to be. When I believe that I am cured then I may put myself at risk of being in hazardous situations whether it is physically or mentally. Also, by believing that I am cured I may tend to “let my guard down” thereby allowing myself to be vulnerable to the people, places, and things that I may face on a day-to-day basis.

Second, think of “recovered” in terms of the disease concept. Addiction is said to be incurable, progressive, chronic, and fatal. If am truly recovered then I never have to worry about relapse. By being cured of my disease I no longer have to practice the skills I may have needed to get me clean/sober in the first place. Believing that I am recovered may be, in fact, a slippery slope.

Are You Recovering?

Personally, I prefer to think of myself as recovering. To me, the term recovering means that I am in a continuous and never ending process of self-improvement. It also means that I need to ensure that I am always aware that relapse is a possibility.

Another consideration is that even though I may be recovering, that my addiction may manifest itself in other areas of my life and that need to addressed. As far as I’m concerned, addiction is not just about the drug. Addiction is about obsession and compulsion; in other words, thoughts and behavior.

So you may be saying, “But Karl, come on. Does it really make a difference?” and my response is, “Yes.” You see, I never want to think that I’ve got so together that I never have to worry about using again. I’ve seen countless people go down that path of destruction. I can also work on my whole self. As long as I consider myself to be recovering then I can exist in a state of humility; one where I remain teachable and know that I will never be fully cured.

Are you recovered or recovering?

APA Reference
Shallowhorn, K. (2012, July 9). Are You a Recovered Addict or Recovering Addict?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

Chris Curry
January, 19 2013 at 10:36 pm

I'm recovered. I will never purchase crack cocaine again and will never inject again. It's been over eight years. But if I was to go to a meeting every night, or once per week, I would always be on the verge of relapse. Drug addiction isn't a lifelong illness . . . unless you choose it to be by joining a 12 step movement.
The purpose of recovery should be re-joining life, not spending your time in a basement, thinking about your past drug history.
People need to move forward, not remain stuck in their past mistakes.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 20 2013 at 7:25 am

Chris - I think we can agree to disagree here. I do not believe that once a person stops using that they are necessarily "recovered". I believe that recovery is a lifelong process and it is much more than just putting down the drug. It is about becoming the best person I can be by addressing the core issues that were present even before I picked up a drug. In my personal experience I need to remember where I came from to keep myself from making the mistakes that kept me sick in the past.
Bascially, there are many different philosophies on recovery and mine is but one of many. I believe that a person needs to practice what works best for them.

July, 28 2012 at 3:58 am

hi i'm ron just ur everday alcoholic i'm coming up on 2 years sober after 5 years in and out of the rooms.recovered..recovering who cares don't care what u call me.My daughter says i'm the best dad in the world today and i know that would not be the case if i wasn't sober today.I do know i have to do daily maintance on my soberity to keep it

July, 14 2012 at 2:34 pm

Been involved with several debates around this, for me as I work a 12 step program the book of AA says I have recovered from a hopeless state of body and mind, bang on. In practical terms if someone has cancer, recives treatment and that cancer has been addressed they have recovered from that, but thats not to say they will never again have cancer, me I've recovered from the obsession to use

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 15 2012 at 1:47 am

@Nick - point taken. I just believe that with addiction, the disease is always present, if even in a dormant state. Not to mention that it is often present in other areas in my life. Even though I may have stopped using does not mean that I am cured. For me recovery is a life long process.
Thanksk for commenting.

July, 13 2012 at 6:18 am

Spot on, Karl! Recovering.

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