Addiction Recovery Lingo

A group of conveniently diverse people sit in a circle during a support group session.

Addiction recovery is a very unique culture of people who all have been through similar trials and experiences. This sort of culture has led to a certain vocabulary that is specific to the world inside of the 12-step program. There are many phrases that you will hear in addiction recovery that you won’t hear anywhere else, but many of these phrases are common words that have a completely different meaning in the world of recovery. Here’s some unique addiction recovery lingo…


Going out usually refers to going on a date with another individual, or heading with some friends to do various activities away from home. In addiction recovery, however, it refers to experiencing a relapse. Remember, though, that going out implies coming back in, so it usually is a relapse that is followed by guilt and a continuation of their recovery.


When someone asks you your time, it is likely that you might assume that they are referring to your schedule, or simply asking for the time on your watch/phone. However, in the world of addiction recovery, it refers to how much continuous time that you have been sober.

Think, think, think

Think, think, think is a common slogan that you hear repeated in addiction recovery. It is meant to remind people to think before taking actions in the moment that could be disastrous to the recovery process, such as relapsing and using once again. Repeating the phrase to yourself in tough situations can remind you of the progress you’ve made and how undoing that would be harmful.


Calling someone an old-timer in addiction recovery doesn’t actually mean you are referring to the age of this person (although they certainly might be older). Rather, it refers to someone who has been sober (after suffering from addiction) for quite some time. Usually, the period is at least over 10-20 years. The flip of this phrase is new-comer, which is an addict who has only just begun their journey to recovery.


There are two different unique things about the semantics of “birthday” in addiction recovery. After starting a 12-step addiction recovery program, your birthday actually refers to the anniversary of you deciding to be sober. However, in order to signify the date of your actual birth, those in the program use the phrase “belly button birthday”.

High bottom

A high bottom refers to a time that you used where you hit rock bottom. Oftentimes, the high bottom is the severe binge that led to the addict seeking recovery. This is one of those that is an odd phrase that you wouldn’t hear outside of the world of addiction recovery.