What Recovery Really Means

People “in recovery” know what recovery means and how important it is to them — and how important it is to society. But what if society doesn’t fully grasp what recovery means? The term is sometimes couched in the idea of “struggle” and is understood as “someone who is trying to stop using alcohol or other drugs.” It’s far more than that.

In 2007, The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment published a formal definition authored by The Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel: “Recovery from substance dependence is a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.”

Note the formal definitions’ use of the word lifestyle. Notice also that this lifestyle involves voluntarily maintained sobriety, personal health and citizenship. The idea here is that recovery from addiction isn’t merely trying to recoup something lost. It’s about a new and healthy lifestyle. And the word citizenship means that this lifestyle involves a responsibility to society and an emerging positive identity in the culture. Citizenship means that we have a responsibility to stem any tide of lingering ignorance and educate the public on the beautiful truth about recovery.

Recovery is a continuum of improved health and wellness. It’s always dynamic, growing, and improving. It’s a continuous progression of healing, reinvention and self-redefinition. Thus, as we grow in recovery we transcend stigma because people in recovery become increasingly vital assets to family, friends, and society. Every story of recovery is an amazing story of redemption. Recovery is beautiful.

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