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Recovered Addict

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"Congrats — you're sober. It will take a while for your body to remember how to metabolize anything that isn't sugar from alcohol, so you're going to be pretty ravenous soon. Eat plenty. You can expect your coordination and balance to improve in a couple of weeks. In two months, you might start sleeping like a normal person. Full recovery will take years, though. It'll be depressing. And it'll be boring. Don't expect any further rewards or handclaps. This is how normal people are all the time."
— Waste Land of Reality, Disco Elysium
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The Recovered Addict is a former substance or compulsive behavior addict who has managed to beat their addiction. They have managed to go through the rounds of rehab and withdrawal and come out the other side without falling Off the Wagon immediately after. Then again, addiction recovery, being a long and sometimes painful and/or dramatic road, they might very well have fallen off several times before they figured out how to stay on the wagon.

The addiction in question may have been alcohol, other drugs, gambling, or another compulsive behavior. Weirder fare like sex addiction, cannibalism, videogame addiction, and blood drinking are also possible.

They may have been The Alcoholic, an Addled Addict or a Functional Addict who got wise and found help. One interesting Character Arc and story for these types of character is to start clean, get addicted, and then recover, with all the drama and pain that that implies.

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Once clean they can go one of two ways: be outspoken about how Drugs Are Bad and their own past and possibly become The Teetotaler; or try to forget and live down their past and move on, making it Hidden Depths. They'll usually be sympathetic to the suffering of others and seek to help in overcoming addictions as The Sponsor.

The Manipulative Bastard will probably try to get them to relapse by offering or forcing them to do drugs or otherwise kicking them Off the Wagon. Friends who are still addicted will probably crawl out of the woodwork asking for money or trying to get them to come back. It's unfortunate, but sometimes they do succumb and relapse, starting the cycle over again.

Interestingly some vampires may be able to stave off their Horror Hunger and become recovered blood addicts; transitioning from bloodthirsty monster to Vegetarian Vampire.

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See also The Sponsor and Addiction Displacement which frequently accompany this character. In optimistic works, this can be the endpoint of a Descent into Addiction character arc. See also: Off the Wagon for when they relapse.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • For most of Justice League Elite, Major Disaster kept getting wasted in order to deal with the stress of having to play a supervillain (because supervillainy was a previous addiction that he was still struggling to overcome). After getting so wasted that his powers crapped out on a mission, leading to the death of one of his only real friends, he tried to kill himself. When that failed, he decided retire from superheroics and join AA instead, and as far as we know, never relapsed (well, not on the drinking, anyway; he did return to being a superhero, but since that was during Infinite Crisis, and he ended up dying in battle, he can probably be forgiven for it.)
  • In The Order (2007), Henry Hellrung used to be a nasty drunk, the result of his playing Tony Stark on a TV show and becoming the real Tony's wingman. After his career went down the toilet, he got heavily into AA, and became Stark's sponsor when he got sober. Incidentally, upon becoming the leader of the Order, California's post-Civil War official team, he instituted a strict no-alcohol policy.

    Fan Works 
  • Carol Danvers from A Prize for Three Empires kept getting drunk in order to deal with her past trauma and her fading powers. After she is kicked out of the Avengers and forced by her mother to own up to her addiction, Carol makes a recovery. She slips once, but afterwards she manages to stay clean.
  • Jem fan-fic writer Zeroninety has two fics about Roxy's rehabilitation from drug addiction. At Loose Ends is about Roxy going on a detox in 1993. She briefly relapses but is clean by 1994 according to Tempting Fate.
  • Co-dependence is a Captain Planet fanfic about Linka's recovery after she became addicted to Bliss in the episode "Mind Games".
  • Late into the Azumanga Daioh fic Control, Yukari is saved by Nyamo from being held hostage as a drug-addicted prostitute. She's sent to recover from her car crash injuries at a hospital, but she's forced into going cold turkey. This fic ends on an ambiguous note on whether Yukarj cleaned up, though signs point towards "yes".
  • In Laying Waste To Halloween, Annabeth gets addicted to drugs in Act 2 and slowly gets better, becoming pretty much recovered by the end of the fic, with a few relapses here and there.
  • Mary Phillips Story is a Jem fic that starts with Stormer getting addicted to cocaine. After an overdose, she's sent to rehab.
  • After Weiss' suicide attempt in RWBY: Scars, her mother Willow decides to get sober after being an alcoholic for over 30 years.
  • Their Bond: Link's boyfriend Shad is a recovered alcoholic. He and Link met during rehab; however Link is an Addled Addict who has relapsed by the start of the story.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Nadia in The Drop, she cleaned up after leaving a (drug) abusive boyfriend.
  • Ewan McGregor's character in Trainspotting, at least until his friends forced him to go back to heroin.
  • Played with in the relatively little known and not especially well received Al Pacino film Two For The Money, where Pacino's character is a former Gambling Addict who kicked the habit after coming down with a heart condition, and appears to stay away from personally gambling even though he owns a business that advises people on how to bet on sports. Throughout the film it's shown, however, that he has done a form of Addiction Displacement: rather than wagering money on sports teams or dice or cards, he now gambles with his business and his personal relationships instead. This is shown during the film by him doing things like recruiting little known sports handicappers, bringing them to the New York where potentially millions of dollars are riding on their picks and seeing if they crack under the pressure, (with potentially catastrophic effects on his business) or if his attractive younger wife cheats with his latest, very handsome recruit...
  • Jake of 4Closed is a former alcoholic.
  • Tom Holmes in Heroes for Sale is able to kick his morphine addiction cold-turkey.
  • Molly, of Lovely Molly, suffered from a heroin addiction prior to the events of the film. Her supernatural experiences are initially treated as side effects of her addiction, or of her having fallen off the wagon.
  • Marie of Malcolm & Marie is a drug addict who got clean. Her boyfriend Malcolm then created a film about a drug addict in the process of recovery.
  • Salvation Boulevard: Carl, who used to heavily drink and use drugs along with having lots of promiscuous sex before he was born-again. Pastor Dan uses his change of heart as proof of God, but Blaylock suggests that religion has become his new drug.

    Literature 
  • Sam Vimes on the Discworld has been on the alcohol wagon since the end of the first book he appears in, Guards! Guards!, and stayed there, despite considerable temptation, even keeping a tipple in his desk as a kind of permanent test. When his political enemies sneak a bottle of high-end brandy into the desk in Feet of Clay, he pours it out and feigns a stupor, then considers charging them with high crimes for making him waste booze. He later considers that he'll have to have the carpet replaced so that he's not haunted by the smell.
  • Ravenswood Cadavre in Relativity. He was a heavy drinker and an alcoholic until about five years before the start of the series. A flashback scene shows him getting drunk and waking up with three days of his memory gone.
  • Lo and Lily in Addicted eventually become this.
  • Anna in Berättelse om herr Roos is a former heroine addict and lives in a (quite terrible) home for former addicts until she runs away.
  • Only the Brave: Brendan is a former pothead, but he's trying to stay clean and get a steady job so he can be a good father for his infant daughter.
  • A Dog's Way Home: Lucas' mother was a drug-addicted war veteran when he was growing up. She's since cleaned up, and she regrets neglecting Lucas as a child, but she still suffers from physical problems due to her addiction. Bella ends up acting as Terri's seizure dog.
  • J.P. Beaumont, the protagonist of a series of mystery novels by J.A. Jance, drinks very heavily in the early books of the series. He eventually realizes he has a problem and joins A.A., with his step-grandfather as The Sponsor. He remains a recovering alcoholic throughout the later books.note 
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: By the time she's shown again in the books, Bria had recovered from her addiction to Exultation and become a Rebel.
  • Zach Hunter from Asperger Sunset used to have substance abuse problems. Eventually he got clean and became a priest, and now he counsels addicts.
  • Just Juliet: Juliet started drinking and doing drugs after her mom died, but went to rehab in the past and is now clean.
  • Grass and Sky: Grampy used to be an alcoholic. He was friends with the three drunken trespassers, and behaved even worse than they did. Timmi's father spent his childhood in constant fear of Grampy's next bout of drinking. The final straw was after Timmi's sister Rebecca was born, when Grampy went to the hospital demanding to hold her. He grabbed her out of the bassinet and almost dropped her fighting with the nurses. After that, Timmi and Rebecca's parents decided that Grampy was unsafe and cut him out of their life, to the point of returning his letters to Timmi. After that, Grampy sobered up and started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but it was too late for his family, and he remained estranged from them for the next six years.

    Live-Action TV  
  • Arrow: Laurel spent much of Season 2 spiraling into alcohol and drug addiction, but eventually turned it around and started attending meetings. She is then shown consistently keeping her sobriety, even when her father at one point bitterly (and quite literally) shoves a bottle of liquor into her hands. She even comments that she only take aspirin after being in a car crash.
  • Babylon 5. Garibaldi's Back Story features a drunken past. Then he falls Off the Wagon after realizing he had been Mind Controlled, with his resurgent alcoholism causing trouble for him and everyone around him. A part of the last season is him dealing with it and overcoming it again.
  • A group of vampires in the second series of Being Human (UK) do this under the leadership of Mitchell. They manage to form their own version of AA and go off drinking human blood entirely. Then a group of human vampire hunters bombs their celebration party, destroying quite possibly the only group of Friendly Neighborhood Vampires on the planet.
  • In Bones Seeley Booth is a recovered gambling addict. It rarely comes up except when their investigations take them to a casino or similar place. Season 10 forced him to go undercover in an underground game, causing him to relapse.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow's storyline in Season 6 involves her becoming addicted to magic, using it excessively and for mundane tasks like getting dressed. It reaches a head in "Wrecked", where her addiction nearly kills Dawn, and she swears off its use. She spends several episodes recovering...until Warren shoots Buffy and Tara, resulting in Willow going Off the Wagon and absorbing massive amounts of Black Magic, becoming Dark Willow and nearly destroying the world. After that fiasco, Willow spends the Time Skip between seasons and the early part of Season 7 on a rehab course with the Devon Coven in England, and when she returns, she spends most of the season terrified of using magic again.
  • Burden of Truth:
    • Billy's father is an alcoholic who's gone through AA.
    • Kodie is a drug addict who's in recovery and clean.
  • Charmed (1998): It doesn't really affect the plot, but Paige states in her introductory episode that she doesn't drink because she "used to have a problem with certain liquids." It basically serves to prove that her boyfriend doesn't know her well enough to know that and thus that she doesn't know him well enough to recognize when he's possessed by the Source, but they do typically establish that she's drinking mineral water when the others (presumably) have alcohol.
  • In Cheers
  • In The Closer, Lieutenant Andy Flynn and Brenda Leigh Johnson's husband, Fritz Howard, are both recovering alcoholics who got on the wagon when their alcoholism threatened their careers in law enforcement. Fritz opens up about his alcoholism in the Season 6 finale when Johnson needed advice on how to coax an addicted kidnapping/murder suspect while in Season 7's Road Block, Flynn comes face-to-face with an alcoholic hit-and-run driver who killed a young woman and tries to use her husband's city position to cover it up.
  • Criminal Minds has Dr. Spencer Reid becoming this in later seasons of the show.
  • In Downton Abbey, Bates is a recovering alcoholic, or drunkard. It's almost never brought up, but mentioned that it lead to his violent temper. He's quite ashamed of this in the present, and is a strict teetotaler.
  • On Elementary, Sherlock Holmes is a recovering heroin addict and Joan Watson was originally his live-in sober companion before becoming his protege, then partner, then quit to start her own private investigation business.
  • Feel Good: Mae is a cocaine addict and has been clean for years. However, she's very reluctant to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings and otherwise go through formal 12-step recovery, but eventually does so. She later falls off the wagon with oxycodone at the end of Season 1. In Season 2 she goes into treatment for drug addiction once more.
  • For Life:
    • Henry, Aaron's mentor, is an alcoholic who's sober and is shown reciting the Serenity Prayer, having gone through AA.
    • Hassan, one of the inmates, is a recovered drug addict who leads a group for other recovering addicts.
  • Graceland:
  • Hill Street Blues has Detective LaRue's struggle to overcome his drinking problem as the secondary story arc for much of Seasons 3 and 4. Captain Furillo also comes close to a relapse at one point.
  • Intergalactic: Candy gets clean with great difficulty, quitting cold turkey and almost trading sex for a fix but in the end managing.
  • As of the start of The John Larroquette Show John Hemingway is a recovering alcoholic, having given it up that very day. Going to AA meetings is a regular part of the first season but dropped after that.
  • Detective Holder from The Killing once had a bad drug habit but has six months of sobriety by the time the show's first season begins.
  • Law & Order: SVU:
    • Captain Cragen drank like a fish in his back story. His recovered status is repeatedly brought up. Mostly by Cragen himself.
    • Rollins had a recurring gambling addiction that she seems to have kicked for good after "Gambler's Fallacy".
    • Lennie Briscoe of the original Law & Order was also a former alcoholic who had managed to sober up for good, although he does backslide in one episode.
  • The Mentalist: Cho is hit by a car during a bust and is given pain medication during his recovery. As the episodes go on we see him popping the pills as needed. Eventually he realizes he's getting addicted to them. Cho being Cho, he solves his addiction by flushing the remainder of his pills down the toilet and never takes any again.
  • Larry Zito from Miami Vice used to be an alcoholic. As of "Down for the Count," he hadn't had a drink in five years and was implied to be attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
  • Midnight Caller: Jack Killian's struggles to quit smoking are a minor subplot in the second half of the first season.
  • The main characters of Mike & Molly met at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, and are often seen attending such meetings in the early seasons. After getting married in the fourth season, that angle of the show was phased out to concentrate on their domestic lives.
  • Mom is about two such characters, Christy and her mother Bonnie, as they struggle to remain sober and rebuild their lives.
  • The very first episode of Murphy Brown has the title character returning from rehab for alcoholism. She tries to get back down to business but sincerely questions if she still has her edge. When she goes for the jugular for her post-rehab interview, she's delighted that she does.
  • In Necessary Roughness, Terrence King developed a bad painkiller habit after getting shot, and spent the better part of a season on a downward spiral. He finally got sober after befriending another addict and then watching him overdose.
  • Nip/Tuck: Gina enters the series as a recovering Sex-addict, who attends frequent meetings and even offers to sponsor Christian. Master seducer that he is, he immediately and deliberately causes her to fall off the wagon. She is never able to recover into any form of sobriety for the rest of the show, even after contracting HIV. She later dies when she seduces Christian on the roof of the medical building, and accidentally falls off during sex.
  • NYPD Blue eventually became the story of Andy Sipowicz, who as of the first episode is a rude, racist alcoholic and borderline drug addict. Early in the first season he stops drinking, but later falls off the wagon. After he joins AA he remains sober - even going so far as to initially refuse pain medication during a surgery - and generally becomes a much nicer person. He even helps a few others stop drinking.
  • Off The Map: Dr. Cole used to be addicted to morphine and heroin and consumes candy to stay clean. When Cole and Mina must retrieve heroin to use as painkillers, he contemplates relapsing, but manages to overcome it.
  • After finally admitting that he's a gambling addict, One Life to Live's Max Holden seeks help and becomes this trope.
  • Shining Vale: Pat has been sober for 16 years but she starts feeling un-fulfilled as she struggles with writing a second book and has problems in her marriage, including her cheating on her husband with the handy man, which causes the family to move to the titular town to have a fresh start and try to save their marriage.
  • Single Drunk Female: Sam along with her fellow alcoholics are trying to achieve this by AA. The first season ends as Sam's achieved one year's sobriety, while James fell Off the Wagon after two years.
  • Space: Above and Beyond: The In Vitros have severe problems with addictions to certain pain meds. Col. McQueen has had problems with the same "Green Meanies" prescribed to Hawkes in one episode.
  • Pete Lattimer in Warehouse 13. Several episodes keep drawing attention to the fact that Pete is a recovering alcoholic by stating it in the recap opening, but they subvert it by making the characters simply think he has been drinking when the truth is far weirder.
  • War of the Worlds (2019): Sophie is determined to become this by the end of the series, having stopped using drugs despite it making her suffer for Theo, the boy she's basically adopted.
  • On The West Wing, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry went from private sector business into politics, with a stop in rehab for an alcohol and Vicodin addiction. He's a few years sober at the start of the series. However, he makes it crystal clear that it is still something he struggles every single day, and that his addiction is in no way cured, he's just sober.
  • Perhaps the most heartwarming moments of The Wire involve Bubbles finally managing to achieve sobriety in the final season after years, perhaps decades, of being a homeless drug addict. At his first year anniversary he talks in heartbreaking detail about how he almost couldn't complete that first year due to his continued desire to get high.
  • Without a Trace's Martin Fitzgerald notices that fellow agent Danny Taylor doesn't drink. Danny confirms that he's a recovering alcoholic. Several years later, when Martin develops an addiction to painkillers after being shot, it's Danny who pushes him to get help for it. From then on, this trope applies to him too.
  • 7 Yüz: Mete of "Büyük Günahlar" is quickly established as The Teetotaler, owing to his status as an addict; he turned to alcohol following a nasty breakup, but since made a recovery. Determined to maintain sobriety, he abstains from alcohol at the party, making no exceptions for a holiday, but the events of the episode send him flying Off the Wagon.
  • Y: The Last Man (2021): Hero is introduced going to AA with Sam.
  • Scottish sketch show Limmy's Show has Jacqueline McCafferty. She used tae be a junkie. She lost three year of her life oan heroin, and another five year oan a methadone program that wis meant tae get her aff it. But that's her clean noo.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Interestingly, in Shadowrun you can play as one of these, but throughout your career you may be tempted in a variety of ways.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout and Fallout 2, you can get addicted to drugs which can cause a bad withdrawal effect if you stop taking them, though Going Cold Turkey long enough cures you, making you this. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas require you to pay a doctor for a surprisingly short (read: instant) detoxtreatment instead. Not much fanfare is done about it either way though.
    • The White Glove Society in Fallout: New Vegas are a recovered Cannibal Clan. Their transformation couldn't be more complete, having become high class casino owners and operators. However, there's a subgroup with some recidivism of late.
    • In Fallout 4, you can help Cait kick her addiction to Psycho, but it's not easy. It requires not only getting her affinity up to the level where she nearly idolizes you, but taking her deep into the southwest and into the heart of Vault 95, which is neck-deep in Gunners and Assaultrons, in order to find a Vault-Tec gadget that will purge the poison from her system.
  • Cullen becomes this in Dragon Age: Inquisition if you support him during this fight against his lyrium addiction. If he does, he becomes the role model for other Templars (those who weren't corrupted by Red Lyrium, anyway) to be cured of their addiction, as well.
  • Batman: The Telltale Series: Carmine Falcone hints that he was a heroin user in his youth, but kept clean for forty years while he ran the business.
  • The player character in Disco Elysium starts out as a barely-functional alcoholic, but can pursue the "Waste Land of Reality" thought to dedicate themselves to quitting. This is harsh, eliminating Booze Based Buffs entirely and having a number of unpleasant side-effects from withdrawal... but it also grants +1 psyche, making it the only thought to directly increase a major stat. The flavor text makes it clear that it's still just taking the first step in a long, hard, unpleasant road.
  • Night in the Woods: Mae's father is an alcoholic, but doesn't touch the stuff now and hasn't in many years. He quit because he realized he was a danger to Mae and her mother. When Mae gets extremely drunk at a party as a young adult and is feeling the effects the next day, he doesn't scold her, but sardonically offers her a hangover cure: don't drink the night before.

    Visual Novels 
  • Dash from Melody has been able to be a productive member of his band, and to maintain a relationship with Jade, since getting clean.

    Webcomic 
  • Jacob in Shortpacked! was a sex addict, part of the reason he's stuck working retail is that his addiction interfered with his studying law. Roz abused his addiction to get cheap, relationship-free sex, only for him to realize what it was doing to him. Eventually Amber got him out of his slump and he got clean, completing his law degree and moving away.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Liz was seriously addicted to cigarettes and was seen smoking in every appearance but Ashley helped her stop by being nice during her withdrawal.

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Planet: It's easy to forget, but Linka became a drug addict in the first episode of Season 2, "Mind Pollution" (one of the darkest episodes of the series), when her cousin Boris slipped a pill of the substance into a snack. The end of the episode sees her recovering, but Boris wasn't so lucky.
  • The Simpsons regular drunk Barney Gumbel went sober for one episode. He continued being sober for several seasons (most of which he spent as a "coffee fiend") before reverting back to form.
  • Tuca from Tuca & Bertie used to be such an extreme Hard-Drinking Party Girl that she had alcohol poisoning at least once. By the start of the series, she's been sober for six months and aims to keep it that way.
  • Superboy of Young Justice had this as a character arc, starting with Lex Luthor giving him Super Serum to allow him access to full Kryptonian powers, and Conner trying to resist their use, but becoming metaphorically addicted to their use. He eventually gives them up once they prove to cause uncontrollable rage and the favors Lex asked for too great.
  • In Metalocalypse, Pickles the Drummer's previous band, Snakes n' Barrels, are all recovered addicts. They ultimately relapse after they unknowingly take a super powerful mind control drug called Totally Awesome Sweet Alabama Liquid Snake.


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