THE BLOG
05/30/2014 04:51 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

5 Words I Found Myself Using in Weird Ways in Recovery

Words take on certain new meanings when you get sober -- or at least I should say some words. Yes, you learn new ones -- those types of things you're never going to find in the Oxford English Dictionary or outside of recovery circles probably -- like normie, sponsee and step work. But there are also a slew of words you're probably going to learn to use in new ways. Maybe some people don't notice, but I'm as obsessed with words as I once was with cocaine, so I found these new uses slightly jarring at first. Here are a few:

1) Share
I'll never forget the first time I heard this verb I knew so well being used as a noun. It was when a girl I was in treatment with turned to me after my first group (oh, there's another one: group! Not group therapy but simply group) and said, "Those were some weird shares, right?" I knew what she meant of course and figured she was just conserving words. After all, her meaning was perfectly clear and the sentence was slightly easier to say than, say, "What those people shared with us was weird, right?" I remember smiling at the sentence abbreviation and wholly agreeing with the sentiment (of course, everything seemed weird then). I had no idea that using share as a verb was the norm and that within a week or so, I'd become so used to it that I'd stop realizing a non-recovering person might find it strange.

2) Loaded
To most Americans, this has a very common meaning, right? I mean, when someone says "Donald Trump is loaded," no one thinks that person is saying that he's had too many martinis or tripping on E. But in recovery circles, this word only seems to mean drunk or high. I recall being jarred by this in the beginning -- wondering, the more often I heard it (and not, say, "smashed" or another somewhat random colloquialism for drunk/high), if it was hipster slang or if there was a long-ago-established, unwritten rule that this was the word choice when talking about inebriation (never did get the answer to this, by the way).

3) Days
Most of the free world knows by now about one day a time. But it's safe to say that these people do not freely ask questions like, "How many days do you have?" Indeed, perhaps the only time this sentence would ever be uttered was if someone was dying and the person asking the question was extremely insensitive and tactless. But recovery people freely throw this query around as a way of asking how many days the person has been sober. (New theory: Many of us feel like we wasted a lot of valuable time before we cleaned up so maybe we're subconsciously just trying to use what we've got left as much as possible, even just by cutting out a word now and then.)

4) Old-Timer
Call most anyone in the world this and you risk offending the person (particularly if they're female and in L.A.). But in recovery circles, the word is meant quite literally, as someone who has the most time sober. Still, I guess a more literal expression would be long-timer. (Who's up for a movement to change it?)

5) Using
In the real world, using something would mean exactly that: using something. But in the World Recovery, using refers to only one thing: using drugs, only you don't need to say "drugs" or specify which ones. And though of course alcohol is a drug, this word seems to solely to refer to hard drugs -- cocaine, heroin and the like. Pot and ecstasy don't seem to fall into the "using" umbrella as far as I can tell. Why? I have no idea.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

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