Recovery- What is it?

Published: September 12, 2019

By: Anita Jackson; Recovery Coach

It is difficult to define what recovery is because it is a personal concept that people view and understand differently.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Commission (SAMHSA) defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their full potential.”

One person's recovery from substance use is likely to look and feel very different from another person's recovery. For this reason, it is important to not compare one's recovery to another and to develop a recovery plan that is customized for the individual and not a "one size fits all" approach. However, each person's recovery plan should include the tools necessary to handle stressors (without using), a positive support person, and activities that promote physical and emotional self-care.

Coping Skills- It is important for a person in recovery to learn or identify helpful coping skills that will aid them when stress hits. Without coping skills, a person in recovery is at a higher risk of returning to old habits. Examples of coping skills include reading, journaling, watching an uplifting show, going for a walk, exercising, etc.  It is important to have balance when introducing coping skills so that the new activity does not become a new "addiction".  Eating junk food, drinking soda or energy drinks, working longer hours, and sleeping are all examples of coping skills that could be viewed as negative or unhealthy.  However, when compared to alcohol or traditional drug use, these activities can be viewed as more acceptable and healthy choices. They can be used as short-term solutions to deal with stress while a person continues to develop more positive and healthier coping skills.

Support Network- Maintaining sobriety is difficult. Everyone needs at least one person who can provide positive support when having a difficult day during recovery. Many people in recovery cut the people out of their lives that were from their previous social network.   Sometimes, family and friend relationships are even damaged by the substance use and these persons have distanced themselves from the person in recovery. In these situations, it is important for the person in recovery to work on developing a new sober and positive network.  Many people develop new social networks by getting involved with recovery groups, like AA, NA, Smart Recovery, or Celebrate Recovery.  Often times there will even be sponsors within the recovery groups who can serve as a mentor through the challenges of recovery.  Others can choose to get involved in a place of worship, groups centered around new hobbies or interests, or by volunteering. 

Self-Care- Self-care is the most important thing a person in recovery can do for themselves, as it is essential for long-term sobriety. Self-care can include making substance use treatment a priority, engaging in therapy to deal with past resentments or trauma, finding new interests to combat boredom, or learning to love and accept one's self. Developing an overall sense of wellness, including making healthier lifestyle choices and being more active, are important elements of recovery that allow the body to heal and repair.

Here are some simple tips to remember when supporting someone in recovery:

  • Be accepting and supportive
  • Be understanding and listen while avoiding criticism
  • Be informed by learning about substance use/abuse/addiction
  • Create your own personal boundaries and provide reinforcement for positive changes when appropriate