What does it mean to be ‘recovered’?

In my recovery group we use basically two different terms to describe our recovery:  Recovering and recovered.  Is there a difference?

The term “recovered” was used by Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA to describe a person who has experienced a “spiritual awakening” after working the steps of the 12 Step program.  A “recovered” alcoholic had turned completely around – 180 degrees – and had simply stopped drinking.

Someone who was “recovered” no longer felt the overwhelming need to drink.  ‘Stinkin’ thinkin’’ was a thing of the past.  The recovered alcoholic was still an alcoholic, still vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, and still powerless over it’s controlled use.

The “recovered” alcoholic was restored to sanity.  Life was once again, manageable.  And the “recovered” alcoholic remained in active service to others who still suffered.  There was no escaping alcoholism.  Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. But as long as alcohol was not part of his/her life, life would remain forever sane.

The word “recovering” denotes the continual working of the 12 Step program, the daily-ness of recovery work:  Progress, not perfection.  A recovering addict still continues to remain vigilant and to improve his/her conscious contact with God (Higher Power).

Recovering addicts don’t ever think that they are cured.  Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.  Unfortunately, the word “recovered” tends to imply that the sacred journey to recovery is over.  And some addicts who manage to enjoy an extended period of sobriety get cocky and are deluded into thinking that they are now in the clear.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I prefer to call myself a “recovering” addict, reminding myself and others in the meeting that I have not arrived; I am still in recovery.  I make progress everyday that I remain in recovery – working the steps continually.