What is Recovery?

Defining Recovery can be Challenging. There are Several Reasons for the Challenge:

  • No person or organization has been designated the authority of recovery.
  • From what a person is recovering from appears to influence the way some define recovery.
  • The definition can be subjective and often based on personal experience.
  • Whether or not abstinence is required to consider a person in recovery is highly controversial.

In 2012 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a research study to better understand how people define and how people live in recovery.

SAMHSA invited comments from the public. There were had 1000 participants, nearly 500 ideas, and over 1,200 comments on the ideas. Many of the comments received have been incorporated into the current working definition and principles.

Recovery: “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” (SAMHSA, 2011).

An important element missing from this definition is any reference to abstinence. The definition is cutting edge as it denotes emphasis on the quality of an individual’s life rather than a set of guidelines.

There were four dimensions identified that support life in recovery:

  • Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
  • Home: a stable and safe place to live;
  • Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society; and
  • Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Also identified were the recovery-oriented Guiding Principles:

  • Recovery emerges from hope: The belief that recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future – that people can and do overcome the internal and external challenges, barriers, and obstacles that confront them.
  • Recovery is person-driven: Self-determination and self-direction are the foundations for recovery as individuals define their own life goals and design their unique path(s).
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways: Individuals are unique with distinct needs, strengths, preferences, goals, culture, and backgrounds, including trauma experiences that affect and determine their pathway(s) to recovery. Abstinence is the safest approach for those with substance use disorders.
  • Recovery is holistic: Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. The array of services and supports available should be integrated and coordinated.
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies: Mutual support and mutual aid groups, including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills, as well as social learning, play an invaluable role in recovery.
  • Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks: An important factor in the recovery process is the presence and involvement of people who believe in the person’s ability to recover; who offer hope, support and encouragement; and who also suggest strategies and resources for change.
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced: Culture and cultural background in all of its diverse representations, including values, traditions, and beliefs, are keys in determining a person’s journey and unique pathway to recovery.
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma: Services and supports should be trauma-informed to foster safety (physical and emotional) and trust, as well as promote choice, empowerment, and collaboration.
  • Recovery involves individual, family and community strengths and responsibility: Individuals, families, and communities have strengths and resources that serve as a foundation for recovery.
  • Recovery is based on respect: Community, systems, and societal acceptance and appreciation for people affected by mental health and substance use problems – including protecting their rights and eliminating discrimination – are crucial in achieving recovery.

A number of other organizations and writings support defining recovery by the quality of life rather than the historically more rigid definitions. This idea of recovery comes from a place of hope rather than shame.

Healing Springs Ranch specializes in the treatment of trauma for adults with Substance Use Disorder and offers a complete lifestyle transformation for the most successful recovery. Call Healing Springs Ranch at 866-647-4606 to overcome these issues in a safe way.






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