November 2nd, 2015

“CHIPS”: Another Recovery Acronym

Editor’s Note: In the first article that I ever wrote—published in the June 1975 issue of the AA Grapevine—I began with the statement, “I do not understand alcoholism.” During the past 50 years, I have gained a better understanding of addiction to alcohol as well as other substances, but I continue to puzzle about why some people recover more easily than others. In this post, I try to briefly summarize what I have seen to be differentiating traits of those who have had more success in their struggle. Now we’re looking at a new set of trait called CHIPS.


For those of you who cannot get enough formulae for recovery, I will offer you another one. The CHIPS acronym is applicable both to the patients that we treat at Kolmac and is also relevant to the qualities that we look for in our staff membersboth clinical and administrative.


  • For patients, this means their recovery is important to them and has come to occupy an even more central role in their lives as had the substances to which they had become addicted.
  • For staff, the treatment of patients with addictions needs to be a passion for them.

Honesty with oneself and others

  • The process of addiction usually erodes this quality. Reestablishing one’s ability to be honest with oneself and others in all areas of one’s life is essential for a stable recovery.
  • If clinicians do not have this quality, their effectiveness will always be limited.


  • Recovery is a living process and always evolving. Always looking for ways to improve its quality is the best way to keep it alive.
  • The process of addiction treatment is also always evolving and can always be better. Change for its own sake is not desirable, but being alert for ways to innovate is important.


  • Obstacles can seem dauntingone reason for the wisdom of the 12-step principle of “One Day at a Time.” This quality of constructively directed stubbornness is more important for recovery than raw intelligence.
  • Watching a person struggle with addiction can be discouragingprogress rarely follows a straight lineand the “chronicity” of the recovery process needs to be appreciated. If our program cannot carry someone “over the finish line,” it can at least move him or her in that direction and leave them with realistic optimism that a better life is possible.

Sensitivity to others

  • As with honesty, the addiction process tends to diminish this trait, leading to the spreading of misery to other people in the addict’s world. As usual, the 12-step programs have addressed this by recommending that one make amends when possible to those that one has harmed.
  • This quality is so essential for staff that I will not elaborate.

To learn more about treatment and CHIPS, contact us.

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