Recovery is the purpose of this guide, and of the Twelve-Step programs, meetings, and fellowships.

Recovery is a threat to your addiction, and you can be sure the addiction will not surrender without a fight. But the fact that you are reading this guide is evidence that recovery has already begun, and the addiction is in trouble!

Remember that recovery is a journey, not a destination. Where do you begin? With the first, tiniest, shakiest step. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Detox Period

After the unpleasant effects of withdrawal, which are not always dramatic enough to be identified, many addicts, especially following treatment, get on a “pink cloud.” Everything seems so wonderful, and the disease can begin to plant the seed of the idea that you are cured. Don’t worry, the pink cloud won’t last; enjoy it but keep working on your recovery so you’ll have support when the pink cloud evaporates. '

In the Trenches

The war against addiction is won in the little daily battles “in the trenches,” not on the parade ground, nor even in the dramatic “breakthroughs” that signal hopes for a magic cure. Retreats and conventions may be inspirational, but the inspiration doesn’t last much longer than a regular meeting.

Unfortunately, in some (non-AA) Twelve-Step Groups there is so little recovery that trying to recover is like trying to learn tennis from watching matches on TV! In these cases it is important to get a core of people very serious about recovery who will do whatever is necessary to gain abstinence or moderation from the addictive behavior, and get into recovery. Sometimes an entire community of Twelve-Step group members will improve when a few people go to a good treatment program, or start working a good recovery.

Your “Program”

You may often hear in a meeting that somebody seems to be working a good “Program.” If you are not sure what that means, we might suggest that your “Program” refers to how well you live by the principles of the Twelve Steps. When you do, others see honesty, humility, gratitude, and joy. Even if life throws you some curve balls, your Program can keep you centered. Nothing is so bad that a relapse won’t make it worse. See the module on Program.



Around treatment programs, several phases of recovery have been identified. The first, reflecting its association with hospitals, is usually called “admission.” In a more generic context, and to emphasize that it has little to do with the admission of Step One, we call it “attendance.”

“Bring the body; the mind and heart will follow.” Most members arrived at the doors of recovery reluctantly, skeptically, and grudgingly. In this stage of recovery, they are saying, “I’m here, I may be willing to admit that I have a problem, but I don’t know if this program is right for me.”


“I’ll do what you say, but I’m not convinced it will work.” This is the message of the compliance phase. Often there is an undercurrent of defiance, as you agree to go through the motions, or to “act as if.” Probably most people leave a two- , four— , or six-week treatment program still in compliance. That’s OK — many addicts comply their way right into acceptance.


The transition from compliance to acceptance is usually heralded by a growing recognition of similarities between you and other addicts.

Eventually, the realization sinks in. “I really am an addict!” You feel a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you actually accept that you have a primary, progressive, chronic, and potentially fatal disease. There is a sense of identification with others in recovery, on a basic, internal level.


Finally, surrender occurs through the spiritual awakening brought about by using the Twelve Steps in your daily life. Surrender involves a level of faith seldom experienced by people in the early months of recovery. It represents abandoning the struggle and trusting in a Higher Power or the Program. It has to do with serenity.

Recovery is a process, not an event. So the phases of recovery are not static, they are dynamic. It is entirely possible to get a hint of surrender one day, be back at acceptance the next, and feel that you are essentially in attendance the next, and then back in acceptance all in the same week. The important thing is to recognize the progression of recovery, as opposed to progression of the disease. Keep moving in the overall direction of recovery and you are in recovery.

The Program offers release from the bondage of addiction and hope for a life that is good. Old-timers don’t tell you to keep coming back so you will experience self-pity, resentment, fear, and misery. The promises of the Program include freedom, serenity, happiness, trust, and ultimately some real meaning for your life. Most of all it frees you to become the best you possible.

Recovery, see also: Abstinence, Acceptance, Addiction model (PEMS), Affirmations, Aftercare, Coping skills, Feelings, Freedoms, Grace, Higher Power, Humility, Humor & fun, Integrity & values, Intimacy, Love & caring, Moderation, Program, Relapse & prevention, Relationships, Steps of AA, Surrender, Tools of recovery, Unity.

Updated 12 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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