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You Need To Let Go of These 10 Recovery Clichés

When we speak about recovery, there are words and phrases—”recovery clichés”—that we use regularly, some because they serve us, and others because we are echoing the words of others. I’m learning that if I am to truly embrace the inclusivity of recovery that means so much to us here at Sober Mommies, it’s time for me to remove some of those echoes that aren’t really my voice. Here are a few such words and phrases that I want to try to let go.

I’m “Clean.”

What is the opposite of “clean”? Dirty. *FULL STOP*

When I use the word “clean” in reference to traditional abstinence-based recovery, someone who may not be practicing complete abstinence may internalize that word. I do not want another recovering person to believe themselves to be dirty just because complete abstinence is not their path. My house is CERTAINLY not “clean” right now, it’s full of toys and noise and love and cookie crumbs. My house is lived-in and chaotic, but not dirty. The same idea can be applied to non-abstinence recovery paths. We are not dirty, we are full of love and noise and our recovery is valid.

I’m “Sober”

I’m reminded of the folks that haul out the dictionary definition of “sober” that involves something about sound mind and clear thinking. I can say with all honesty that my moments of sound mind and clear thinking in recovery are sometimes few and far between. I did not drink alcohol yesterday, but my thinking was FAR from clear and sound.

“Fake it ‘till you make it.”

Nope. I can’t fake anything today, because faking it has never served me well. For me, it starts with “fake it ‘till you make it,” which turns into a completely valid reason to put on a mask and keep it on. The EXACT same thing I was doing the entire time I was getting loaded. For the past three years of my recovery journey, I have been faking it and guess what? I’ve been miserable. Every turning point moment for me has always followed a moment when I had to take the mask off. Not faking it is hard, but faking it is worse.

“Gotta let them be where they’re at.”

There is nothing wrong with this statement in and of itself, but the way I hear it used is what gets me. Most often I hear this from folks who believe their path and position in recovery is higher than the person they are speaking of. As if one must come down from their lofty perch to mingle with us commoners. Recovery doesn’t work like that. Sure, we all have people that we look up to for whatever reason. I want to look to the folks walking next to me, and not have to hope that one day I too can sit in the Ivory Tower of Success.

“Just don’t use.”

Again, this is great advice, but we need to take care where we use this expression. When we are talking about medication-assisted therapy, or harm reduction, the phrase “just don’t use” DOES NOT APPLY. Just stop.

“Drug” Replacement Therapy.

I am not replacing my dangerous use of alcohol with equally dangerous use of marijuana. I am using a medication to assist in successful mind and body recovery from addiction. The same can be said of any other medication, regardless of the stigma attached to taking it. The correct term is MEDICATION ASSISTED RECOVERY. Learn it and use it.

“Successful” Recovery.

There needs to be room for each of us to define what success means for ourselves. When I accept someone else’s definition I may be setting myself to live to a standard that is unobtainable for me. Even worse, I may be selling myself short and not becoming as awesome as I could be, and that would be unfair to everyone.

“I will be here when you’re ready.”

I have a few issues with this one. First, I feel like I should be the one to decide when I am ready for anything. This statement implies that someone else is measuring my readiness and I KNOW that goes against a very important tradition. Secondly, when I hear this statement, it’s as if the very person I am turning to for guidance has tossed me aside until I prove myself worthy instead of simply accepting me. I can’t live up to another person’s expectation of me, and it’s pretty shitty of you to ask me to. Lastly, this expression implies that you are not there for me as I exist in my current state. If I am asking for support, it is because I need it in the moment, not some far away point in time of another’s choosing.

“Meeting makers make it.”

I have a pair of problems with this one. The first is pretty simple. Meeting makers make meetings—they are in attendance at a gathering of people. They can tick off on an abacus the number of times they showed up to a specific place at a specific time. That’s it. I’ve also heard this expression applied as a way to condescend to folks who are in attendance but “not doing the work” that the program suggests. Sometimes just showing up IS work. What seems easy to some, is impossible to others.

Sometimes just showing up IS work.

“Stinking thinking.”

It’s not the actual expression that bothers me here, it’s how it is applied. It seems any “negative” feeling or emotion is thrown into this category. Anger especially being labeled this way is problematic for me. I know so many recovering folks that struggle with their anger. Being told to cast anger aside as unacceptable, instead of honoring it and allowing ourselves to feel angry so that we may face and defeat it, is much the same to me as stuffing it all down deep. We all have an example in our own lives that we can look to as an illustration that stuffing down our natural human emotions is a TERRIBLE idea.

There are many things that I was taught in my early years, and that I taught others as I navigated recovery. Those things simply do not serve me. Recovery has taught me to be mindful and compassionate in my words and deeds, so that instead of turning someone away, I can bring someone in. It’s been extremely confusing to me to sort out my own initial introduction to recovery language and reconcile it with a more inclusive language that is our mission here at Sober Mommies. I got into recovery to learn, but I never realized how much I needed to unlearn until I found this community. I’ve gained the kind of support that I never knew I needed simply by letting go of the statements that confined and labeled me and others. That is the greatest gift of my recovery.

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