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Abstinence: The state of avoiding the use of mind-altering substances or behaviors. See "Recovery" for further information.

Addict: A person who has an inability to control when and how much of mind altering substances or behaviors she uses, on a consistent basis.

Addiction: An inability to control when and how much one uses mind-altering substances or behaviors, on a consistent basis.

Addict’s bargain: A deal that addicts make with themselves: to continue their addictive behavior or drug use and to successfully maintain control over their lives. Since addictions typically are progressive and worsen over time, the odds of maintaining the addict’s bargain are not good.

Alateen: Twelve Step recovery program for adolescents affected by an adult alcoholic.


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): The Twelve Step recovery program of help and support for those who want to stop drinking. AA is characterized by non-judgmental sharing of experience by its members, as well as their hope and strength in the spirit of fellowship, to solve common problems and help others in their recovery. The program has been in existence since 1935 and is the treatment of choice by most recovering alcoholics. AA adheres to the disease model of alcoholism.

Alcoholism: Alcoholism can be defined by its symptoms. These include loss of control or intermittent control over drinking; continued use of alcohol despite negative consequences; impaired emotions; distorted cognitive judgment and preoccupation with drinking and all that surrounds it. Denial of problems with alcohol is emblematic of the condition. Although nobody knows for certain, it is generally agreed that biological predisposition, environment and individual temperament influence the development and manifestation of alcoholism. Many people believe that alcoholism is a disease because of its possible causes, symptoms, and course of development. Others believe that it is a habit that is amenable to behavioral and cognitive control. Alcoholism is often progressive and sometimes fatal if left untreated, although individuals vary widely in their responses over time.

Al-Anon: A Twelve Step recovery program for any adult who has been affected by the drinking of another. Al-Anon supports program members in taking best care of themselves, while learning the difference between support of, and codependency with, one who has problems with alcohol.

Cocaine Anonymous (CA): A Twelve Step recovery program focused on recovery from cocaine addiction.

Codependency: The essence of codependency is the false belief (conscious or unconscious) that sacrificing oneself to another person in any form, will produce positive results. Manifestations of codependency include attempts to control another person’s behavior. A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior. A codependent is also someone who accepts responsibility for someone else’s irresponsible behavior.

A pattern of behavior in which those who are in a close relationship with an alcoholic/addict become in turn dependent upon that person’s chemical dependency. The codependent builds his or her needs and life around the dependent person. The addict is addicted to the drug, but the codependent is addicted to the addict. The addict may also be codependent.

Control: The ability to successfully regulate the use of alcohol, drugs or other addictive behaviors.

Denial: An inability or unwillingness to admit the existence or extent of problems with alcohol; or unwillingness to admit one’s codependence.

Detoxification (Detox): The process of eliminating drugs from the body of someone who has become chemically dependent.

Disease: An involuntary illness.

Enabler: A person who consciously or unconsciously provides support for continued drinking or drug use by someone who is addicted. Obvious examples of enabling include or drinking with an alcoholic; making excuses or providing funds. Less obvious examples include begging, pleading and fighting with an addict about her use of alcohol or other drugs. Such behavior tends to shift the focus away from an addict’s primary responsibility to come to terms with her own drug use and onto the conflict between addict and enabler. Those concerned about the addict often find it difficult to let go of trying to control an addict’s behavior while still caring about her. The answer to the problem is often found as enabler’s learn to take better care of themselves (see codependence).

Enabling: Behavior that supports an alcoholic/addict in continuing to drink and/or use.

Hitting bottom: Reaching a personal low point in one's life. Hitting bottom may kick start the process of coming to terms with addiction and provide the motivation to start the recovery process.

Intervention: Bringing to bear all available means to break through the user’s denial and to help her to begin recovery. Intervention is sometimes used as a last resort to "kick start" the process. Examples include the willingness of bosses to terminate employment if treatment is not begun immediately; family members willing to back up their decision to cease further contact with a non-recovering alcoholic or drug addict and friends who refuse to continue the relationship until recovery has begun. The Intervention is facilitated by an expert who has taken care to carefully assess the situation. It must be determined that enough leverage exists to accomplish the goal of initial recovery. Otherwise, this powerful tool may be rendered useless; the situation may worsen and life-threatening consequences may result.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA): A Twelve Step recovery program focused on recovery from drug addiction other than to alcohol or tobacco.

Powerlessness: Inability to control the use of alcohol or other drugs by self will. Also, the inability to control the alcohol or other drug use of another.

Recovery: Ongoing involvement in the process of regaining health by overcoming dependence on mind altering substances. For those who know that they are addicted, attention is placed on learning to live in total abstinence. For those who believe they are not addicted but have been abusing, experimentation with control may take place. 12 Step programs support the notion of total abstinence. Since recovery evolves over time, 12 Step participants routinely refer to themselves as recovering as opposed to being recovered. Participants in some secular programs refer to themselves as recovered. Recovery usually involves ongoing support and contact with others who are also working toward reducing need and desire for mind-altering substances or behaviors.

Relapse: The return by a person in recovery to the self prescribed, non-medical use of any mind- altering substance and risk of the consequent problems associated with its use.

Religion: (Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary): 1. A personal set or institutional system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. 2. That which defines the sacred.

Slip: (Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary): n. 1. (Slang) A drink of alcoholic beverage. 2. A drinking binge. "I had a slip last week." v. (Slang) The act of consuming alcohol. "I slipped last week." 3. Accident, accidental.

Sobriety: State of mental clarity obtained through abstinence from alcohol and other drugs.

Spiritual: (Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary) 1. Concerned with or attached to religious values; ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal; things of a religious, ecclesiastical nature; something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric. 2. A musical form created in America during the 1800's by people held lifelong in slavery. To ease their torment and enhance social cohesion under oppressive conditions, the slaves sang inspirational songs expressing reliance on God for deliverance from bondage. These songs came to be called spirituals. 3. A descriptive term applied to the 12-step recovery movement, e.g., "AA is not religious; it is spiritual."

Sponsor: A 12 Step program mentor or guide. Sponsors are program members themselves. They offer support and guidance to others in the program who are seeking recovery. Participating as a sponsor is prescribed by the Twelve Step program.

Substance abuse: Abnormal or aberrant use of alcohol or drugs.

Tolerance: The ability to cope with the physical, emotional, and cognitive effects of alcohol or other drug use.

Trigger: Any thought, feeling, person, place or thing that intensifies the urge to use addictive substances or behaviors.

Twelve Steps: Steps taken by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as they worked toward abstinence from alcohol and sought sobriety. The Twelve steps form the core structure of the Twelve Step programs. These programs are used by millions of people in their efforts to recover from addiction to a wide variety of substances and behaviors.

Working the program: This is a Twelve Step program term that refers to active participation in three key areas.1) Attending Twelve Step meetings, 2) choosing and working with a sponsor and 3) putting the 12 Steps into practice in daily living.

Glossary: About Me
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