Recovery | Family & Friends

Recovery: Defined

‘Abstinence’ from substances, though often necessary for some people, is not always sufficient to define recovery.


23 million americans living in recovery from an addiction.

Recovery from substance use disorders has several definitions. Although specific elements of these definitions differ, all agree recovery goes beyond the remission of Substance Use Disorder symptoms to include a positive change in the whole person. In this regard, ‘abstinence’ from substances, though often necessary, is not always sufficient to define recovery.

In the same way, Substance Use Disorders are unique to the individual, so too is recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration defines recovery as a dynamic change process through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.

Successful population-scale recovery is built on access to evidence-based clinical treatment and recovery support services for all populations. Support services may be provided before, during, or after clinical treatment or may be provided to individuals who are not in treatment but seek support services. They help people enter into and navigate systems of care, remove barriers to recovery, stay engaged in the recovery process, and live full lives in communities of their choice.

By incorporating a full range of social, legal, and other services that facilitate recovery, wellness, and linkage to and coordination among service providers, these supports have been shown to improve quality of life for people in and seeking recovery and their families. Often provided by professionals and peers, they are delivered through a variety of community and faith-based groups, treatment providers, schools, and other specialized services.

For more information on Multiple Pathways of Recovery click hereFor more information on the definition of addiction see here.

“ If there is anything modern research on recovery is teaching us, it is two critical lessons: people with alcohol and drug problems—even the most severe of such problems—are not a homogenous population, and there are many pathways and styles of long-term recovery. - William White

Central to all of definitions of recovery is the concept of ‘Recovery Capital’. In essence, ‘Recovery Capital’ is the whole collection of resources an individual may use to facilitate their ongoing recovery. While an individual may be able to find and maintain recovery, the collection of resources they have at their disposal aid in the long-term growth and maintenance of their recovery. ‘Recovery Capital’ can be broken into four areas:

  • Social – Family, friends, group, and community supports
  • Physical – Physical assets like money and property
  • Human – Skills, education, personal drive
  • Cultural – Values, beliefs, and attitudes linking social conformity and social behaviors

In essence, the more ‘Recovery Capital’ individuals are able to access, the better chance they have for long-term recovery growth or maintenance. With an emphasis placed on accumulating recovery capital for individuals, it is then the job of the community to ensure recovery supports are available and equitable for all individuals wishing to grow their own personal ‘Recovery Capital’.

“ ...the essence of recovery is a lived experience of improved life quality and a sense of empowerment; that the principles of recovery focus on the central ideas of hope, choice, freedom and aspiration that are experienced rather than diagnosed and occur in real life settings rather than in the rarefied atmosphere of clinical settings. Recovery is a process rather than an end state, with the goal being an ongoing quest for a better life. - David Best & Alexandre Laudet

There are many paths of recovery. People will choose their recovery pathway based on cultural values, socioeconomic status, psychological and behavioral needs, and the nature of their substance use disorder. With such a personal and varied stake it is impossible to categorize every single type of Recovery. However, there are several large areas that Recovery falls into.

Types of Recovery Paths:

  • Natural Recovery
  • Recovery Mutual Aid Groups
  • Medication Assisted Recovery
  • Peer-Based Recovery Supports
  • Family Recovery
  • Technology Based Recovery
  • Alternative Recovery Supports

Additional Recovery Resources

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