Recovery is All Around Me

Top 10 Concepts I've learned while Working in the Field of Addiction Recovery

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There are many pathways to recovery.
There are many pathways to recovery.

In one year, I have learned an abundance of information working in and being part of the addiction recovery field. In reflection, I’ve come up with at least 10 concepts that are the most prominent to me when I reflect on my learning.  Let me begin with some definitions to bring context to my list.

Recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, is defined as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”   They consider this a “working definition” as it is a concept that is difficult to define.  

Interesting enough, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), no longer uses the terms substance abuse and substance dependence. The term now used is Substance use disorders, and they define it as mild, moderate, or severe to indicate the level of severity, which is determined by the number of diagnostic criteria met by an individual.

Here is my list:

  1. Recover is all around me.
  2. If you work in this field or want to learn more about it, you got to get to know  William White. Some of my favorite quotes from him are:
    1. “Recovery is contagious. If you want it, you have to get close to it and stay close to it. You have to catch it and keep catching it. And you have to pass it on to others!” (2010).
    2. “One of the most riveting metaphors emerging from the Native American Wellbriety movement is that of the Healing Forest. In this metaphor, the clinical treatment of addiction is seen as analogous to digging up a sick and dying tree, transplanting it into an environment of rich soil, sunshine, water, and fertilizer only to return it to its original deprived location once its health has been restored. What is called for is treating the soil—creating a Healing Forest within which the health of the individual, family, neighborhood, community, and beyond are simultaneously elevated? The Healing Forest is a community in recovery.” (2010)
    3. “…the greatest social movements have often been sparked and sustained by the small acts of imperfect and often unknown individuals. If a recovery movement waited for those with perfect credentials, that movement would not be born, and if it was, could not succeed with such credentials. The message of recovery has always been able to transcend the imperfections of its messengers.” (2000)
    4. The history of Recovery in America can be traced back to the 1750’s.   William White has given voice to that history in his writings.
  3. There is a new language in the field:
    1. White, W. The rhetoric of recovery advocacy: An essay on the power of language. Posted at In White, W. (2006). Let’s Go Make Some History: Chronicles of the New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement. Washington, D.C.: Johnson Institute and Faces and Voices of Recovery, pp. 37-76.
    2. Addictionary
  4. Felon Friendly and Recovery Friendly Employers exists.  These employment places have intentional practices to be inclusive to people who are returning citizens and/or individuals in recovery.
  5. There is a need for amplification of recovery voices in the field, and Messaging training can help.
  6. There is not just a recent opioid crisis, there has been an addiction crisis for many, many years. Because the population of those who are affected by it has changed, there seems to be a new wave of innovative solutions, compassionate care, and sanctions.  Let’s not get stuck there, let’s use the attention to change lives and level the playing field. And yet, still strive for equity in all we do.
  7. There are multiple pathways to recovery and multiple pathways of recovery.
  8. People in recovery often live in a grateful state, which makes it working in this field and being part of the community absolutely worthwhile.
  9. Better alive than dead, harm reduction saves lives.
  10. Recovery is supported through relationships and there has to be an element of optimism, and the ability to remain hopeful. SAMHSA

Living a purposeful and meaningful life, where one can thrive, is the ultimate journey and destination for all individuals. That also requires hope, optimism, relationships, positive and empowering language, finding our voice, and being in a grateful state.

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