imagesI like knowing what things mean. That can get quite difficult when you start talking addiction and Recovery. Whilst definitions of any word or phrase vary, it is generally accepted, by most dictionaries that Recovery is:

re·cov·er·y (rĭ-kŭv′ə-rē)pl. re·cov·er·ies

The act, process, duration, or an instance of recovering. A return to a normal or healthy condition.The act of obtaining usable substances from unusable sources.

Despite the similarity in all the dictionary definitions those involved in rehab treatment, the field of mental health, the media, and the Recovery ‘movement’ have yet to agree on what the problem is, never mind the solution. This can make it a little difficult for those of us seeking to enter our own Recovery process. To further complicate matters people Recover from many other conditions as well as addictions.

ORA recommends abstinence from all mood and mind altering substances, that was what worked for all our contributors, though how and when that is achieved is another matter. People are going to slip or relapse, postpone their process or decide not to change right now. This does not have to mean the end of the Recovery journey. There can also be controversy (or confusion) roused around the use of medication, be it Antibuse or Methadone, and even prescription medication for Depression and Anxiety related symptoms.

So what kind of Recoverist are you going to be?

A US study by Jane Widbrodt PhD and colleagues sought to determine how respondents to the ‘What Is Recovery?’ survey defined themselves. This led to five classifications, 12-step traditionalist, 12-step enthusiast, secular, self-reliant and atypical. Sadly, this did not indicate people who had chosen Recovery for health reasons, Yoga devotees, faith-based Recovery practices or so called ‘Spontaneous Remission,’ let alone the endless individual paths that may be pursued.

If you have found yourself in a drug rehab or treatment for alcoholism, it is unlikely to have been a mistake. Something was going wrong. If a friend, Doctor (or in my case my Dentist!) has suggested 12 Step Meetings or therapy, something’s wrong. If you find yourself constantly feeling sad, guilty or angry following drinking or drug using episodes, something’s wrong. You may just be sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, so something is wrong!

The question is, if you make a decision to change, how do you do it?

The primary focus of the Online Recovery Academy is to provide tools and techniques to enhance the experience of living in Recovery from addiction and whilst recognising there are many paths to Recovery (and many other conditions that the process can apply to) making as much information as possible available.

I like the Scottish Recovery Consortium definition of Recovery,

Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by each person, in the presence or absence of symptoms. It is about having control over and input into your own life. Each individual’s recovery, like his or her experience of the mental health problems or illness, is a unique and deeply personal process.”

The only person who can honestly decide if life is meaningful and satisfying is the individual. The suggestion, therefore, is try making the changes, try the commitment, try for sometime.

I went into 12 Step based treatment, I’d tried 12 Step meetings before and just was not ready for the amount of change I needed to make. I got some great advice when I started to look to various spiritual paths, yoga and holistic practices. A friend said stick at the 12 Step route for a year, then look at these other options. Over time I’ve integrated art, writing, some Buddhist teachings, vegetarianism, meditation, mindfulness and regular exercise into my Recovery Practice, I could not honestly say that any of these things are less important than the other now, but the advice I got helped me develop a personal pathway.

Over the years I’ve come to see that all to often the choice of definition can be one of the biggest blocks to getting started.

Whether your own journey starts with a personal decision, medical advice, individual therapy, detox and rehab, intervention by family and friends or even from work, it is the choices you make moving forward that will determine the personal Recovery pathway.      

The term Recovery can and does apply to cancer and many other diseases and conditions, and many in the Mental Health field have been working toward Recovery solutions for years. It is worth noting though that almost any kind of Recovery seems to benefit from an absence of mood and mind altering substances.

So should the language of Recovery, and it’s definition, aspire to be a universal one?

The ORA view is that the individual needs to take responsibility to define their own path and process, and that information and practical tools need to be tried, evaluated and either adopted or replaced.

Whatever the case, it is clear that many bodies in many countries have attempted to at least give a workable definition of what Recovery really means.

Over time as the ORA develops we hope that our community will grow to be inclusive, and encourage the key requirement to any kind of Recovery: change.

Thinking, behaviour, attitudes and actions all need changing in order to Recover from any kind of problem.

Here are a few definitions of recovery from a number of well-informed institutions, which, although different, share may similarities.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA USA) say:

“Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

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. Hope is internalized and can be fostered by peers, families, providers, allies, and others. Hope is the catalyst of the recovery process.

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) towards those goals. Individuals optimize their autonomy and independence to the greatest extent possible by leading, controlling, and exercising choice over the services and supports that assist their recovery and resilience. In so doing, they are empowered and provided the resources to make informed decisions, initiate recovery, build on their strengths, and gain or regain control over their lives.

Recovery occurs via many pathways: Individuals are unique with distinct needs, strengths, preferences, goals, culture, and backgrounds that affect and determine their pathway(s) to recovery. Recovery is built on the multiple capacities, strengths, talents, coping abilities, resources, and inherent value of each individual. Recovery pathways are highly personalized. They may include professional clinical treatment; use of medications; support from families and in schools; faith-based approaches; peer support; and other approaches. Recovery is non-linear, characterized by continual growth and improved functioning that may involve natural, though not inevitable setbacks as part of the recovery process. It is essential to foster resilience for all individuals and families. Abstinence from the use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications is the goal for those with addictions.

Recovery is holistic: Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. This includes addressing: self-care practices, family, housing, employment, education, clinical treatment for mental disorders and substance use disorders, services and supports, primary healthcare, dental care, complementary and alternative services, faith, spirituality, creativity, social networks, transportation, and community participation.

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 can play an invaluable role in recovery. Through helping others and giving back to the community, one helps one’s self. Peer-operated supports and services provide important resources to assist people along their journeys of recovery and wellness. Professionals can also play an important role in the recovery process by providing clinical treatment and other services that support individuals in their chosen recovery paths.

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. Services should be culturally grounded, attuned, sensitive, congruent, and competent, as well as personalized to meet each individual’s unique needs.

Recovery is supported by addressing trauma: The experience of trauma (such as physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, disaster, and others) is often a precursor to or associated with alcohol and drug use, mental health problems, and related issues. 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. In addition, individuals have a personal responsibility for their own self-care and journeys of recovery. Individuals should be supported in speaking for themselves. Communities have responsibilities to provide opportunities and resources to address discrimination and to foster social inclusion and recovery. Individuals in recovery also have a social responsibility and should have the ability to join with peers to speak collectively about their strengths, needs, wants, desires, and aspirations.

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. There is a need to acknowledge that taking steps towards recovery may require great courage. Self-acceptance, developing a positive and meaningful sense of identity, and regaining belief in one’s self are particularly important.

The Betty Ford Institute convened a ‘consensus’ Panel made up of health care professionals to try and reach agreement on a definition of Recovery, they said,

“Recovery is defined in this as a voluntarily maintained lifestyle composed of and characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.”

Then there’s this from the UKDP Consensus Group (UK DRUG POLICY):

“The process of recovery from problematic substance use is characterised by voluntarily-sustained control over substance use which maximises health and wellbeing and participation in the rights, roles and responsibilities of society.”

Having mentioned the Scottish Recovery Consortium above, they add to their definition,

“We developed this description based on experiences shared in our Narrative Research Project.

Recovery is a journey: The recovery journey can have ups and downs and some people describe being in recovery rather than recovered to reflect this.

Recovery is hope: Hope is widely acknowledged as key to recovery. There can be no change without the belief that a better life is both possible and attainable. One way to realise a more hopeful approach is to find ways to focus on strengths.

More than recovery from illness: Some people describe being in recovery while still experiencing symptoms. For some it is about recovering a life and identity beyond the experience of mental ill health.

Control, choice and inclusion: Taking control can be hard but many people describe how it important it is to find a way to take an active and responsible role in their own recovery. Control is supported by the inclusion of people with experience of mental health issues in their communities. It is reduced by the experience of exclusion, stigma and discrimination.

Self management: One way to gain more control over recovery is to develop and use self-management techniques.

Finding meaning and purpose: We all find meaning in very different ways. Some people may find spirituality important, while others may find meaning through employment or the development of stronger interpersonal or community links. Many people describe the importance of feeling valued and of contributing as active members of a community.

Relationships: Supportive relationships based on belief, trust and shared humanity help promote recovery.

The American NPO Advocacy Unlimited, Inc. believes that recovery from mental illness or substance abuse is not only possible, but common. They say,

“AU believes recovery is a process of discovery and adaptation that is personally defined by the individual experiencing it. We believe that recovery is a unique process for each individual whose autonomy, preferences, cultural background and values must be recognized and honored. We respect the understanding and insight that each individual brings to his or her own experience of illness and of recovery.

Advocacy Unlimited does not adhere to a strict definition of mental illness or recovery from it.

AU believes the recovery process begins when an individual actively takes responsibility for his or her emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. The recovery process is furthered by informed choice and self-determination the individual can exercise in chosen environments and with flexible supports that maximize autonomy, dignity, and respect.

For some, recovery can mean being symptom-free. For others, recovery can mean living a full and satisfying life within the context of one’s symptoms.

Advocacy Unlimited does believe that recovery includes claiming social functions and identities that are accepted as valid by oneself and others within one’s chosen community.

We believe that recovery takes effort and that the person alone ultimately achieves it, although the support of others can be crucial.

We believe that there is a solid base of evidence for recovery and hope is an essential component for recovery to occur.

We believe that the road to recovery includes obstacles, and that the individual must be courageous and committed to going over them, around them, under them, and through them.

We believe that recovery means a life worth living.”

I can only add that we, at ORA, agree!



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