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Top 10 Addiction & Recovery Slang Terms

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Terms Specific to Recovery

If you are new to the rooms of AA or recovery communities, you may have noticed people using some strange terms. Some things, like “it’s a part of the process,” means something specific in recovery. That one is fairly intuitive though. There are a lot of slang terms that might have you feeling confused at first. Here are the top 10 slang terms that are used all the time in addiction recovery.

1. D.O.C.
(Drug of Choice)

The first term is pretty straight forward in meaning. An acronym, DOC stands for Drug of Choice—which I guess can be a mouthful sometimes. It’s also just a subtle way of mentioning drugs. If someone asks you what your “DOC” is, they are asking what drug you were the most hung up on.

2. D.T.s
(Delerium Tremens)

Among alcoholics, this term is better known than among other addicts. Short for Delirium Tremens, DTs refers to a dangerous kind of alcohol withdrawal symptom that can bring on delirium, uncontrollable shaking, and seizures

3. Pink Cloud

Moving into the less direct territory of recovery slang, we have the Pink Cloud. A period of extreme joy experienced early in sobriety is sometimes called the Pink Cloud. Some say that depression and urges to relapse are common when these early ecstatic feelings wear off.

4. Going Back Out

Of course to a normie (refer to #6), this could be used in the most mundane ways, like “I went back out to get some food.” In recovery, it is a way of saying relapse. If you go back out, you are drinking or using drugs again. Something we might also say to mean the same thing is “doing research.”

5. Future tripping

Here we have a tiny inside joke, since you know “tripping” can refer to being high. In recovery, worrying about, trying to plan out, or grandiosely imagining the future is called future tripping. This can be unhelpful especially in early sobriety; instead, the “one day at a time” approach is encouraged.

6. Normies

Perhaps as a way of flipping the shame and blame associated with addiction, this term points to the non-addicts. It is a nickname for people who have never been addicted to mind-altering substances before. You know those people who have always been able to just drink socially and whatnot? They’re normies.

7. A Friend of Bill

Everyone has different sensitivities about being known as “an addict.” If you want to find out whether someone is a part of AA, you can use this sly phrase to ask. That way, you are being subtle and sensitive. You don’t want to out them, or possibly yourself, to others who might be around.

8. Old Timers

While old timers are usually known as elderly people, in the 12-step community, they can be nearly any age. An old timers is someone who has maintained many years of sobriety in the 12-step program. You could be an old timer at 30 if you’ve been sober and working the program since you were 19 years old.

9. The Big Book

The manifesto of the 12-step program, the big book is the Alcoholics Anonymous book. It explains the 12-step program. While there are multiple models of addiction treatment today, AA was the first widely successful program, so it’s no wonder that the big book is highly cherished.

10. The 13th Step or 13th Stepping

Frowned upon in the 12-step program, the imaginary 13th step is slang for when an experienced member starts a romantic relationship with a new member. The joke is that once you finish the steps, you start dating someone who hasn’t yet. Don’t be confused; this is not an actual part of the program.

Find Your Way to Recovery

A bonus term that isn’t used much anymore, but has a cool story, is Pigeon. It’s a nickname for someone who has a sponsor in the 12-step program. It is said to be named after carrier pigeons, as many original AA members were WW1 survivors. The sponsor gives the sponsee a life-saving message and, like a carrier pigeon, the sponsee carries it on to others who need it.

If you haven’t found your way to recovery yet, you may be waiting for your carrier pigeon to come. You don’t have to wait, though. You can call (877)670-8451 to talk to someone who has been through all of this before. They can help you figure out what kind of support you need to finally be free from addiction.

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