Are we “recovered” or “recovering?”

Are we “recovered” or “recovering?”


According to the Big Book, when is someone “recovered?” Or are we always “recovering?”


How often have you been asked by a well-meaning 12-Step friend: “Are you recovering or are you recovered”?

AA, as a fellowship, is seemingly of two minds on this issue.

There were competing views on the subject when the Big Book was being written and that remains evident in the text. We are left the seemingly contradictory; that we are recovered but never cured.

Many hold the view that we are never recovered – that we only have a “daily reprieve.” From page 85:

We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

In the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) the word recover occurs 82 times.  According to the dictionary, the definition of recovery is:  to save from loss and restore to usefulness. Within the context of Alcoholics Anonymous, the synonyms restored or healed are usually an appropriate definition of the recover root.

For those who seek a cure, the root cure occurs only 4 times in the Big Book, and in no instance does it mean that the fundamental cause or malady is completely taken away — sorry. Nor does the Big Book allow us to sneak the impression that we are normal folk again, and that we can drink like they do. It is clear that eternal vigilance is the shield.

If you consider yourself “recovering” in order to maintain the consciousness that you must never drink, so be it. If you consider yourself “recovered” because the Big Book says that’s the way we get, then so be that, too. Either way you will be a winner—you won’t drink, and you will base your program of recovery on the teachings of the Big Book.

Here are the 82 sentences in which recover appears. Decide for yourself whether the authors of the Big Book think you are recovering or recovered.


Big Book sentences containing “RECOVER”

1) The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. [Big Book, title page]

2) Because this book has become the basic text for our Society and has helped such large numbers of alcoholic men and women to recovery, there exists a sentiment against any radical changes being made in it. [Big Book, page xi, line 9]

3) Therefore, the first portion of this volume, describing the A.A. recovery program, has been left untouched in the course of revisions made for both the second and the third editions. [Big Book, page xi, line 12]

4) WE, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. [Big Book page xiii, line 2]

5) To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. [Big Book, page xiii, line 5]

6) Sixteen years have elapsed between our first printing of this book and the presentation in 1955 of our second edition. In that brief space, Alcoholics Anonymous has mushroomed into nearly 6,000 groups whose membership is far above 150,000 recovered alcoholics. [Big Book page xv, line 9]

7) By the end of 1939 it was estimated that 800 alcoholics were on their way to recovery. [Big Book, page xiii, line 14]

8) He sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of1his death in 1950. This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery [Big Book page xvi, line 32]

9) Hence the two men set to work almost frantically upon alcoholics arriving in the ward of the Akron City Hospital. Their very first case, a desperate one, recovered immediately and became A.A. number three. [Big Book page xvii, line 5]

10) …public acceptance of A.A. grew by leaps and bounds. For this there were two principal reasons: the large numbers of recoveries, and reunited homes. [Big Book, page xx, line 3]

11) The basic principles of the A.A. program, it appears, hold good for individuals with many different life-styles, just as the program has brought recovery to those of many different nationalities. [Big Book, page xixi, line 16]

12) The Twelve Steps that summarize the program may be called los Doce Pasos in one country, les Douze Etapes in another, but they trace exactly the same path to recovery that was blazed by the earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous. [Big Book, page xxii, line 21]

13) We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate of the plan of recovery described in this book. [Big Book, page xxiii, line 3]

14) In the course of his third treatment he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery. [Big Book, page xxiii, line 18]

15) This man and over one hundred others appear to have recovered. [Big Book, page xxiii, line 24]

16) This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery. [Big Book, page xxvii, line 9]

17) Though the aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is considerable, we physicians must admit we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole. [Big Book, page xxvii, line 25]

18) He had but partially recovered from a gastric hemorrhage and seemed to be a case of pathological mental deterioration. [Big Book, page xxix, line 5]

19) The market would recover, but I wouldn’t. [Big Book, page 6, line 17]

20) Nearly all have recovered. [Big Book, page 17, line 3]

21) Many could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. [Big Book, page 19, line 17]

22) Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. [Big Book, page 20, line 7]

23) So he turned to this doctor, whom he admired, and asked him point-blank why he could not recover. [Big Book, page 26, line 19]

24) I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you. [Big Book, page 27, line 7]

25) Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered. [Big Book, page 29, line 4]

26) We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. [Big Book, page 30, line 13]

27) We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. [Big Book, page 30, line 17]

28) In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. [Big Book, page 31, line 3]

29) We first saw Fred about a year ago in a hospital where he had gone to recover from a bad case of jitters. [Big Book, page 39, line 22]

30) If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. [Big Book, page 45, line 1]

31) Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. [Big Book, page 58, line 3]

32) There are those, too, who suffer from great emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. [Big Book, page 58, line 12]

33) Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery: [Big Book, page 59, line 8]

34) This brings us to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter. [Big Book, page 72, line 12]

35) Small wonder many in the medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics and their chance for recovery! [Big Book, page 73, line 32]

36) To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss. [Big Book, page 89, line 9]

37) Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers who want to recover. [Big Book, page 89, line 6]

38) If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered. [Big Book, page 90, line 23]

39) You should be described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part of their own recovery, try to help others and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you. [Big Book, page 90, line 25]

40) But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little chance he can recover by himself. [Big Book, page 92, line 20]

41) It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your own recovery. [Big Book, page 94, line 9]

42) If you leave such a person alone, he may soon become convinced that he cannot recover by himself. [Big Book, page 96, line 8]

43) He often says that if he had continued to work on them, he might have deprived many others, who have since recovered, of their chance. [Big Book, page 96, line 14]

44) He has read this volume and says he is prepared to go through with the Twelve Steps of the program of recovery. [Big Book, page 96, line 18]

45) …and that he is not trying to impose upon you for money, connections, or shelter. Permit that and you only harm him. You will be making it possible for him to be insincere. You may be aiding in his destruction rather than his recovery. [Big Book, page 97, line 2]

46) Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. [Big Book, page 97, line 5]

47) Should they accept and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better chance that the head of the family will recover. [Big Book, page 97, line 30]

48) The man should be sure of his recovery. [Big Book, page 99, line 20

49 Let no alcoholic say he cannot recover unless he has his family back. [Big Book, page 99, line 30]

50) Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God. [Big Book, page 99, line 33]

51) But many of the suggestions given here may be adapted to help the person who lives with a woman alcoholic—whether she is still drinking or is recovering in A.A. [Big Book page 104, line 32]

52) He knows that thousands of men, much like himself, have recovered. [Big Book, page 113, line 8]

53) Wait until repeated stumbling convinces him he must act, for the more you hurry him the longer his recovery may be delayed. [Big Book, page 113, line 13]

54) Yet often such men had spectacular and powerful recoveries. [Big Book, page 113, line 33]

55) The slightest sign of fear or intolerance may lessen your husband’s chance of recovery. [Big Book, page 120, line 19]

56) Our women-folk have suggested certain attitudes a wife may take with her husband who is recovering. [Big Book, page 122, line 3]

57) At the beginning of recovery a man will take, as a rule, one of two directions. He may either plunge into a frantic attempt to get on his feet in business, or he may be so enthralled by his new life that he talks or thinks of little else. [Big Book, page 125, line 33]]

58) He is striving to recover fortune and reputation and feels he is doing very well. [Big Book, page 126, line 18]

59) Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. [Big Book, page 127, line 15]

60) We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. [Big Book, page 132, line 30]

61) A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. [Big Book, page 133, line 11]

62) We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. [Big Book, page 133, line 14]

63) Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member has to if he would recover. [Big Book, page 135, line 2]

64) He is undoubtedly on the road to recovery. [Big Book, page 139, line 7]

65) After satisfying yourself that your man wants to recover and that he will go to any extreme to do so, you may suggest a definite course of action. [Big Book, page 142, line 31]

66) We all had to place recovery above everything, We all had to place recovery above everything, [Big Book, page 14396, line 21]

67) …for without recovery we would have lost both home and business. [Big Book, page 143, line 22]

68) Can you have every confidence in his ability to recover? [Big Book, page 143, line 25]

69) Naturally this sort of thing decreased the man’s chance of recovery. [Big Book, page 145, line 33]

70) An alcoholic who has recovered, but holds a relatively unimportant job, can talk to a man with a better position. [Big Book, page 146, line 22]

71) If he is, and is still trying to recover, he will tell you about it even if it means the loss of his job. [Big Book, page 146, line 29]

72) He will appreciate knowing you are not bothering your head about him, that you are not suspicious nor are you trying to run his life so he will be shielded from temptation to drink. If he is conscientiously following the program of recovery he can go anywhere your business may call him. [Big Book, page 147, line 4]

73) The right kind of man, the kind who recovers, will not want this sort of thing. He will not impose. [Big Book, page 149, line 29]

74) The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that! [Big Book, page 153, line 14]

75) He has helped other men recover, and is a power in the church from which he was long absent. [Big Book, page 158, line 25]

76) Understanding our work, he can do this with an eye to selecting those who are willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis. [Big Book, page 162, line 13]

77) When a few men in this city have found themselves, and have discovered the joy of helping others to face life again, there will be no stopping until everyone in that town has had his opportunity to recover—if he can and will. [Big Book, Page , line ]

78) One Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity. [Big Book, page 564, line 2]

79) The terms “spiritual experience: and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms. [Big Book, page 569, line 4]

80) Though it was not our intention to create such an impression, many acoholics have nevertheless concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming “God consciousness” followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook. [Big Book, page 569, line 14]

81) Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts. [Big Book, page 570, line 8]

82) Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable. [Big Book, page 570, line 13]


  1. Thank-you Shira for printing the 82 places where we see recovered and recovery in the big book. I find it fascinating that we can actually recover from this seemingly hopeless state of body and mind. I am an example of one who has recovered from this deep dark pit of food addiction to the land of the living. No longer am I obsessing or craving the substances that was literally causing me to an early death, Instead I can go anywhere and be with people who are eating their food and still be at peace and not even want or crave the food. That is the miracle. The obsession has been lifted and I no longer have to find solace, friendship and relief in the bags and boxes. Being recovered today, I live in steps 10, 11 and 12. These steps are vital for me to keep this recovery. I need to keep my focus on how I can be of ultimate service to God and my fellows. Going thru all the steps enables me to be at this place and experience recovery to the fullest.

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