Glossary of Recovery Terms – Part 2 of 2

This is the second part in a series looking at the most commonly used terms in recovery from addiction. You can view part one here.

Incentive Sensitization Theory

Incentive sensitization theory is the idea that people develop an addiction because of unconscious effects occurring in the brain. The problem is that the internal reward system develops a positive association with alcohol or drugs. This means that driving force behind the addiction is beyond the individual’s awareness. It explains why even people who have been happily sober for years can occasionally still get the urge to relapse.


Keeping a journal can be therapeutic for people in recovery. There are many different ways of doing this. Some people keep a journal that records their progress in recovery. A gratitude journal is where people can write down all the things they have to be grateful for in life. This can be highly useful if people are experiencing too much negativity.

Making Amends

During their years of addiction the addict is likely to have caused plenty of pain to other people. When they achieve sobriety they may continue to experience guilt about these past transgressions. Part of the 12 Step program is making amends to people who have been hurt. This is only done if such amends is unlikely to cause the individual further pain. Making amends can be highly therapeutic for people in recovery.

Milieu Therapy

Milieu therapy involves using the whole environment to create a therapeutic effect. This can be achieved by putting people in a community where the focus is on allowing them to build new strategies for dealing with life. This type of therapy can be of value to people who are attempting to build a life away from addiction. It means that they will live in a protected environment until they feel stronger in their recovery. Rehab could be considered a form of milieu therapy.


This refers to a type of meditation technique that may be of value to people in recovery. It can allow them to have more control over their emotions. It can also greatly reduce their feelings of discomfort that arise due to the challenges in life. This technique also makes it possible for people to fully enjoy the present moment.

Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 Step group for people who are trying to escape drug abuse. It is a similar program to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Partial Recovery

Partial recovery refers to a situation where an individual has not managed to achieve abstinence, but they do seem to have managed significant improvements in their life. They may now be drinking or using drugs less than previously. These individuals might also be coping better emotionally. The worry with partial recovery is that it may be difficult to sustain long-term. Many individuals slip back into full-blown addiction.

Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery is an abstinences based program that is offered as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. It does not view alcoholism as a disease. Instead the individual learns to how to combat the addictive voice in their heads. This program does not advocate for lifelong attendance at meetings. It also does not recommend that people continue to call themselves “recovering alcoholics”. Once they quite their addiction, they are cured.

Recreational Drugs

Recreational drugs refer to any medication that people take when it is not for medicinal purposes. Some individuals will begin taking a drug under doctor’s orders, but later begin to use it recreationally.


Relapse is when people return to alcohol or drug use. This is the worst thing that can happen in recovery because the individual might not ever get another opportunity to escape their addiction. For many people their relapse will be a death sentence.

Relapse Triggers

Relapse triggers are events that can lead people back into addiction. In AA they use the acronym HALT (hungry, angry, lonely and tired) so that people can remember the most common triggers. It is suggested that people in early recovery learn as much as they can about relapse triggers so they can protect their sobriety.

Revolving Door Syndrome

Some individuals fall into a pattern of going to rehab and then relapsing. They might repeat the pattern many times. This is sometimes referred to as revolving door syndrome. In order to gain the benefits of sobriety then individual needs to manage sustained abstinence.

Rock Bottom

When an addict reaches a point in their addiction where they’ve had enough it is referred to as rock bottom. There is no need for the individual to lose everything in order to reach this point. Many individuals manage to escape addiction without causing too much harm to themselves or others – this is sometimes referred to as a high rock bottom.

Romancing the Drink or Drug

It is normal for people in recovery to occasionally think back on their drinking days. Problems occur when the individual develops rose-tinted glasses when looking at the past. They might begin to forget how much addiction damaged their life. Those people who romance the drink or drug might be heading towards a relapse.


Some individuals will turn to substance abuse because they are experiencing too much discomfort in their life. This will sometime happen if people are suffering from an undiagnosed mental health problem such as depression. When people use alcohol or drugs in this way it is referred to as self medication. People may get relief in the short term by using these substances, but it will ultimately make the situation worse.


Self-monitoring is when people are able to observe their own behavior and record what they see. A good example of this would be calorie counting. Some individuals seem to be naturally good at self-monitoring, while others struggle with it. An addiction therapist may suggest that that a client keeps a drink diary. This is another form of self-monitoring.

Stinking Thinking

If people are full of negativity it can be described as stinking thinking. This mode of thought is dangerous because it leads to dissatisfaction with life away from alcohol or drugs.


Sometimes people will pick up alcohol or drugs again on the spur of the moment. They instantly regret the decision and are able to stop. This is known as a slip. So long as the individual is able to get back on the recovery path right away it need not be the end of the world. A slip is usually a sign that people have gone off-course in their recovery. They now need to redouble their efforts in order to avoid a full relapse.

Social Drinking

There is disagreement as to the exact definition of social drinking. It generally refers to an individual who only drinks occasionally and never exhibits any of the signs of addiction. It is also possible to define a social drinker as somebody who remains within the safe limits for alcohol intake. This is one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men (a drink here is a regular beer, a spirit shot or a glass of wine).

Substituting Addictions

When people become enter recovery they can still be at risk of falling into new maladaptive behaviors. This can include things like an exercise addiction or a work obsession. This substitution of addictions can be highly damaging because it prevents the individual from finding real happiness. It might also be a slippery slope to relapse. This is even more likely to happen if the individual begins to use another mind-altering chemical.

Tapering Off

Abruptly stopping some drugs can put the individual in danger of severe withdrawal symptoms. This is why tapering off might be the preferred approach. Tapering off is sometimes attempted when people have become dependent on prescription drugs. It involves slowly reducing the dosage over time so that the body has a chance to adjust. If the process is followed carefully enough the individual might experience hardly any withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately this method does not seem to work with all addictions. Sometimes a clean break is the best approach.

Thamkrabok Temple

This is a temple in Thailand that offers detox program for addicts.

Twelve Step Groups

Twelve Step groups offer a spiritual program that can help people escape addiction. The 12 Steps also provide the tools that will help the individual build a good life.

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