What Recovery Is (and What It Isn’t)

After working for many years with people in all stages of recovery from mental illness and addiction, I’m no longer surprised to hear the frequent question, “Just what is recovery anyway?”

While I have a pretty solid idea of how I view the concept of recovery, I’ve realized the term carries different meanings and assumptions for different people.

So what is recovery? To answer that question, let’s not only look at what recovery is, but also what recovery isn’t. Here we go.

1) Recovery is difficult, not easy

Recovery involves dealing with many significant life challenges. It’s definitely hard work which takes a considerable amount of time. There’s no easy way through it and no magic pill to instantly take away all of your difficulties.

2) Recovery is fun, not all work

While recovery does involve a great deal of sustained effort, it should also deliberately include fun, enjoyable activities and personal rewards to give you pleasure and satisfaction as you make positive changes in your life.

3) Recovery is variable, not predictable

Recovery has many unforeseen ups and downs and surprises (both pleasant and not so jolly) along the way. Things won’t always go as you anticipate and it’s certainly not easy to predict what will happen next.

4) Recovery is a community, not solitary

Recovery won’t turn out very well if you’re going through it all alone. You really need a community of friends, family and other supporters to help you, advise you, cheer for you, and to hold your hand.

5) Recovery is individualized, not one-size-fits-all

What works great for your recovery may be the worst idea ever for someone else. There is no cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Just as you are a unique individual, so is your path to recovery.

6) Recovery is about “recovering,” not being “recovered”

Recovery is an ongoing process of growing and making healthy choices to have a better quality of life. It’s not about finding a cure or reaching an unrealistic end point where life is perfect with no problems or challenges.

7) Recovery is focused on wellness, not illness

Recovery involves shifting from seeing only your illness, symptoms, and weaknesses to a more positive view in which you focus on wellness and embrace your strengths, abilities and talents.

8) Recovery involves change, not staying the same

Recovery means making significant changes in your behaviors, thoughts, feelings and lifestyle. It’s not about being complacent and content with who you are now.

9) Recovery is what you make happen, not what happens to you

Recovery is about being planful, taking action and accepting responsibility for the goals you want to achieve. It’s not about being passive and waiting to see what will happen to you next.

10) Recovery is about respect, not stigma

Recovery is about finding your self-worth and respect again, while refusing to accept the stigmatizing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of those who might try to keep you down.

11) Recovery is hopeful, not hopeless

At its core, recovery is about reconnecting with hope for a brighter future, reclaiming your life, and realizing that while it’s a challenging journey, in the end it’s totally and unquestionably worth it.

Here’s a question: What does recovery mean to you? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please share it with a friend. Thanks!

  • Tillie Bright

    I struggled for both mental illness and addiction. I had to reach a point where I was at a time to be ready to me çhanges in my ĺifè. I got a good pdycatrißt, I got a great addiction’s therapist, a and dealt with çhilďhood sexual abuse issues and gradually began to recover, which a lot of hard work. The thing that proved to myself I had reached à sufficient level of recovery was that I wrote à book about my life. I was brutally honest in the book. It’ß called “I’ve Lost my mind: How I found it again..” L
    ‘ß being published and released July 15th. Writing þhe book was cathartic, èxorcised my demons. I’ve been well #e my psýccotrop mess àñď accept the fact that I have an addictive personality so I have to be vigilant. I am alive and well.
    Whew! I really didn’t intend to wŕiitè ßò much.
    Tillie Bright tilb30@shaw.ca

  • Hi Tillie, nice to hear from you. Congratulations on your book! I’m sure it will be a great read!

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