What is the definition of a recovering alcoholic?
Someone who works the Twelve Step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous on a continuing basis, one day at a time. Abstinence from alcohol and all other mood-altering substances is merely the beginning of recovery. I define full recovery as peace of mind in spite of unsolved problems; happy and mutually fulfilling relationships; and spontaneity, creativity and enthusiasm. I want a lot more for my patients than mere abstinence.
Using prescription medications, such as tranquillisers or antidepressants or sleeping tablets, to suppress some of the symptoms of alcoholism simply causes another addiction. People taking these medications sometimes say that they are in recovery. They, and their doctors or other helpers, may forget that the thinking brain knows the difference between one mood-altering substance and another but the feeling brain – which is where the trouble is in alcoholics and other addicts – does not.
People commonly give up one addictive substance and then promptly pick up another. Nicotine and sugar tend to be common cross-addictions with alcohol and drugs. Full recovery is seen when people become abstinent from all addictive and compulsive behaviour and work the Twelve Step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous on a continuing basis.