In this blog, “What is Recovery?” I explore some of the more complex aspects of what recovering from a drug and alcohol addiction is really like. Individuals in recovery know what recovery means to them, but often times, loved ones have a more challenging time understanding this complex process. I hope that this blog will elaborate on a few components of recovery that may be difficult to understand. It may be helpful to begin with a working definition of recovery that was developed by the Betty Ford Institute in 2007: “a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.” In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides their own working definition of recovery: “Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness, and quality of life.”
Both definitions touch on this aspect of recovery. The Betty Ford Institute’s definition highlights recovery as a “lifestyle,” while SAMHSA clearly states that recovery is a process of change. Recovery is not just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol; rather, it is a process of introducing healthier coping skills and behaviors into one’s life. Recovery does not happen overnight. Instead, it is a process, a lifelong journey, in which individuals work to reach their full potential.
Recovery takes both time and effort. Understanding that recovery takes time is helpful for both the individual in recovery and their loved ones. Family members and friends often assume that once the struggling individual puts down the drink or drug, all is well. This is just not the case. As we mentioned above, recovery is a lifelong process of change that takes time and hard work. It is important to recognize that the path to addiction did not occur overnight; similarly, the path to recovery does not happen in an instant either.
There is no one “correct” way to recover; rather, recovery occurs through many pathways. While one person may find recovery in the rooms of a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, others may find relief in outpatient therapy, church, yoga, or a combination of these different positive-focused communities. Recovery is highly individualized in that everyone’s recovery looks a little different.
Recovery is a journey with many ups and downs. Healing is not linear; rather, there will be ups and downs, ebbs and flows during the process. It is important to understand that this is completely normal. At times, it may be very difficult to stay on the right path, whereas at other points, sobriety and recovery seem second-nature. Sometimes, additional support may be necessary. It is crucial that the recovering individuals accepts that this is normal and perfectly okay.