Glossary of Recovery Terms – Part 1 of 2

Glossary of Recovery Terms – Part 1 of 2

The Language of Recovery

When people begin to hunt for solutions to their addiction they can be faced with plenty of new vocabulary. It may even seem like the recovery experts are speaking a different language. These unfamiliar terms can be a barrier that prevents the individual from getting the information they need. The most common recovery words will be defined in this series.

Abstinence-based Recovery

Once addict have lost control over their substance abuse it is unlikely that they will ever regain it. This most effective solution to their problem will be to just completely give up using the substance. This is referred to as abstinence-based recovery.

Addictive Personality

It is suggested that some individuals have personal characteristics that make them more prone to addiction. Those people who are said to have an addictive personality tend to act impulsively and suffer from low self esteem and other negative personality traits.


Al-Anon is a group to set up to help the loved one of alcoholics. It is based on the Twelve Step program. Alateen is sister group to Al-Anon that is specifically for young people affected by alcoholism.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship that offers free support for alcoholics. It offers the twelve step program to not only allow the individual to escape addiction but also to build a good life in recovery. Members are encouraged to attend regular meetings for the rest of their life.


Alexithymia is a personality trait of some people that makes it hard for them to understand and describe their own emotions. Unless such individuals find a way of expressing themselves effectively it may get in the way of their full recovery from addiction.

Amplification Effect

This is when a number of different recovery resources are combined to have a great impact on the individual.

Assisted Recovery

Many individuals struggle to escape addiction without help. Assisted recovery can include services such as rehab, recovery fellowships and therapy sessions.

Aversion Therapy

This works by conditioning the individual to experience unpleasant symptoms when combined with undesirable behaviors such as addiction. Antabuse is probably the most well known of this type of therapy. It is a drug that people take if they want to give up alcohol. If they drink while on the medication, they will become seriously ill.

Booster Sessions

After people have left rehab they can lose their motivation. This is dangerous, because if they do not put in sustained effort they will be unlikely to achieve long term sobriety. Booster sessions are an aftercare option offered by some rehabs. They usually occur a few months after the initial inpatient treatment as a way to boost the client’s motivation.

Character Defects

Everyone has flaws in their character. Nobody is perfect. Character defects usually refer to those flaws that make life uncomfortable. The individual is encouraged to remedy these defects in recovery. This is not something they will ever manage completely, but the emphasis is on progress rather than perfection.

Choice Theory

Choice theory offers an alternative explanation for addiction. It dismisses the notion that people become addicted because of a disease. Instead, they are viewed as making a choice to take the path into substance abuse. They will have made this decision based on faulty reasoning. In the future they can learn to make better choices.

Client Treatment Matching

It is now generally accepted within the recovery movement that there is no one treatment option that will suit everyone. Different personality types seem to do better with different options. Client treatment matching is an attempt to match individuals with the path that is most likely to work for them. The therapist can use different assessment tools to help them make the most appropriate recommendation to the client.


It is not only the addict themselves who is damaged by their addiction. It can harm everybody in their surroundings. Those close to the substance abuser may adapt by behaving in ways that would be considered unhealthy. Co-dependency is when the partner of an addict becomes almost addicted to the chaos. They start to put the needs of this other person ahead of their own. Their whole life can become focused on the addiction. The individual who is co-dependent begins to lose their own identity. If their partner manages to become sober they may struggle to adapt to the situation.

Comfort Eating

Sometimes people will turn to food as a means to comfort themselves. This is sometimes referred to as eating their emotions. Those individuals who achieve sobriety can be tempted to turn to food for solace. This is not such a good idea as it can lead to obesity and other health problem. It also often means that the individual is running away from their problems. Success in recovery occurs when people face challenges and overcome them.

Coping Strategies

Coping strategies are the personal tools that people use to deal with life. These ways of coping can be negative or positive in nature. Addiction is considered to be a negative coping strategy. It is vital that when people become sober they find more effective ways of dealing with the challenges that come their way.

Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens (DTs) is a severe form of withdrawals that people can experience when coming off alcohol or sedative medications. Only does individuals who have been abusing these substances long term will be at risk of developing the DTs. It is important that any individual who experiences these symptoms is kept under medical supervision. The risk is that they could have a seizure and die.

Disease Theory of Alcoholism

The disease theory of alcoholism views the condition as a disease of the brain. This theory is popular with groups like AA. It replaces the old idea that alcoholism is some type of moral character flaw. There is debate as to the legitimacy of the disease theory of addiction. It has been accused of turning alcoholics into passive victims.


Drunkalogues are the stories that alcoholics like to tell about their days of addiction. Some members of groups like AA can spend a great deal of time talking about the bad old days. Such stories may serve a useful function, but the fear is that some individuals become excessively focused on their past.

Dry Drunk Syndrome

Just quitting an addiction is not enough to ensure success in recovery. If people do not put enough effort into building a good life away from substance abuse they might start to experience dry drunk syndrome. Their behavior deteriorates and they can be full of anger and resentment. In AA, they talk about those individuals who haven’t touched alcohol in years but still haven’t managed to get sober.

Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis is where an individual has another mental health condition along with their addiction. This could be a problem like depression or anxiety disorder. This other condition may have been what drove the individual into addiction in the first place. It is also possible for people to develop a dual diagnosis as a result of their substance abuse. If people do have a mental health problem that they have carried with them into recovery it is vital that they seek treatment for it. Otherwise they will struggle to find real happiness away from the substance abuse.


Those who are close to the addict may protect this individual from the full consequences of their actions. This loving gesture may produce a negative result because if it prevents the addict from hitting their rock bottom. This is referred to as enabling the addict.

Faith-based Recovery

Some individuals do well with recovery options that are based on their religious beliefs. This type of spiritual path can provide the individual with new meaning. They may even be able to get support from the religious community. There is some evidence that suggests prayer and meditation can be of great value to people in sobriety. This is not a path that will appeal to everyone hoping to recover from their addiction. It may still be possible to benefit from aspects of faith-based recovery without becoming a believer.

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is based on the idea that some improvement is better than no improvement. Not every individual will be willing to consider abstinence, but it would be considered unethical to just leave such people to their own devices. Harm reduction can include such strategies as methadone clinics and needle exchange programs. These harm reduction efforts can help the individual reach a point in their life where they will consider complete abstinence.