What is recovery
2- What is Addiction Recovery
Not many of us addicts understand what is recovery and what it means to recover from the disease of addiction, or we mistakenly believe it is simply about stopping our drug use. But for recovery to be successful, it should address many aspects of our lives. This page provides a brief description of what constitutes an effective and successful recovery from any kind of addiction.
- Four dimensions of recovery
- Principles of effective recovery
The disease of addiction has many faces, and is seen in the use of various kinds of substances and in a range of destructive behaviors. Addiction, unlike other illnesses, damages not only the physical but also the mental and spiritual dimensions of our life. Finding a definition that covers all the elements for an effective recovery from addiction has been difficult. But in 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the United States established a definition of recovery that reflects the experience of those who have freed themselves from substance and behavioral addictions. The agreed definition of recovery was:
“Recovery is a process of change through which individuals work to improve their own health and well-being, live a self-directed life, and strive to achieve their full potential.”
Four dimensions of recovery
An effective recovery from addiction has to address four major dimensions of our life. These are:
1. Health: as addicts, we must recover our health by overcoming and managing our disease, while also living in a physically and emotionally healthy way.
2. Home: recovery from addiction means having a stable and safe place to live.
3. Purpose: recovery from addiction means having meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society
4. Community: addiction recovery means having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship and love.
Principles of an effective recovery
The principles that guide us towards an effective recovery are:
We start our journey into recovery on the principle of hope that there is a solution and that we can recover. Many times we find this hope in a 12 Step fellowship through witnessing others who have recovered. We come to accept our condition as a disease and are willing to take actions to recover from it. This small leap of faith — based on the experience of other addicts — gives us the courage to work the 12 Steps. We ultimately address all the areas of our lives, and in doing so reclaim the life we were originally meant to live. Acceptance and hope are the catalysts of the recovery process.
2. Our responsibility
Taking charge of our lives is the principle foundation for recovery. Once we accept we are suffering from a disease and take responsibility for our recovery, we make the choice as to which path to take to achieve our goal. We feel empowered by taking an active role in choosing and working with the services and supports that assist us in our recovery. By doing so, we gain the strength and clarity to make decisions about our recovery, and regain control over our lives.
3. Fellowship support
12 Step fellowships play an invaluable role in addiction recovery . Fellow addicts encourage and engage with each other, providing each other with the support needed to recover and, more importantly, to maintain recovery. Getting support from 12 Step fellowships has proven to be the most effective means for us to recover. We need the help of each other to overcome a disease that is much bigger than anyone of us alone. Studies have shown those of us who are involved with Fellowships often benefit from improved social functioning, material and family adjustments, and improved psychological adjustments. Working the 12 Steps with the support of the Fellowship enables us to develop an active spiritual life, a greater sense of self-reliance and self-confidence, and a decreased dependence on others.
Another contributing factor in our recovery process is the involvement of people who believe in our ability to recover. In addition to fellow addicts in recovery, this group includes family members, providers, faith groups, community members, and other allies that form vital support networks. Through these relationships, we discover a sense of belonging, empowerment, and autonomy.
4. A process
Each of us has distinct needs, strengths, preferences, goals, culture, and background – which determine our process in recovery. Unlike other diseases, addiction cannot be treated by a doctor giving us a generic pill to “cure” us. The disease of addiction affects each of us differently, damaging different aspects of our lives — which need to be addressed for our recovery to be successful. For example, addiction drives some to crime and into legal problems, whereas others suffer marital or financial problems. Addressing and resolving these problems have to be part of our recovery process to ensure we don’t go back to using drugs, which has been our usual way of coping with life’s problems. Fortunately the 12 Steps not only help us overcome our disease but also provide us with the tools to deal with all of life’s problems.
Recovery from the disease of addiction is not linear, and many of us relapse during our journey into recovery. This is part of our recovery process. In fact, relapse usually teaches us things we needed to learn about our disease. It does not mean we have failed or that we cannot recover. The basis for our recovery, though, is simple: Abstinence from drugs and a fellowship of people who can support us along the way.
An effective recovery should encompass our whole life, which means that all aspects of our wellbeing should be taken into account. In 12 Step programs, they say that addiction to drugs is only a symptom of our problem. What happens then is that addicts in recovery can point to improvements in all facets of their lives. We finally get to work on rebuilding all the things on which our addiction wreaked havoc. This means we work on improving – or winning back –family relations, our jobs, education, health, spirituality, creativity, social networks, recreation, and community participation – all the elements that define a healthy and human life.
An effective recovery should address areas of our lives that may be contributing factors to causing or contributing to our primary disease of addiction. Among these factors are psychological issues like trauma and depression. The experience of trauma (such as physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, and disaster) is often a precursor to, or associated with, alcohol and drug use, mental health problems, and related issues. It is important to treat each of our illnesses or conditions as separate issues and seek appropriate help for them.
Some of us may need professional help for detoxification or other mental or physical ailments. It is important to recognize the limitations of a12 Step program and not treat it as a medical or a psychological form of treatment. For example, if you are suffering from diabetes, working the Steps will not cure you, although its principles will help you come to terms and cope with it. We need to go to the right professional for treatment. This is all part and parcel of our recovery – which is ultimately about taking responsibility for ourselves and taking care of ourselves. There is a saying in the fellowship that poses the question: “are you willing to go to any length to get sober and stay that way.” And “any length” often means getting help from doctors or psychotherapists for our non-drug issues.