What do you mean by ‘recovery’ is always the elephant in the room, isn’t it?

Recovery can only be defined by the person who identifies as being in recovery, and that definition must remain a personal choice that is recognised as inherently valid. This moves across the entire spectrum of substance use, from medicalized recovery such as a maintenance prescribing, through recreational substance use, all the way to total abstinence. All are considered recovery by someone, and who are we to argue? If you identify as being in recovery, then as far as we are concerned, you are.

Recovery is about far more than substance use, it is about health and wellbeing; physical, mental, and spiritual. Social connection and non-judgemental support networks are often the first building blocks in recovery. After all, unless you are a monk or a sociopath, it is hard to get anywhere on your own. Humans are tribal creatures. We need somewhere to belong.

We also need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and that comes with meaningful activity. People often associate this with volunteering or employment, but that is far too narrow a viewpoint. Meaningful activity is having something to be passionate about, to embrace with open arms because it makes you feel alive, to look forward to and building on. It can be anything you choose.

Individual choice is central to the recovery process. What do I want my life to look like? What are my needs and what do I need to do to meet them? Recovery can only be successful if we can each choose our own future, free in the knowledge that our choice is equal to that of everyone else. Comfort in our own identity and our choices is central to the process.

Recovery is about change, in our behaviour, our thinking and our lives. It is about believing in ourselves, and our value as human beings.

Building links with the wider community, often starting with family and friends, and moving outwards like ripples in a pond, is also central to the journey. We begin from a cold and hard place of isolation, and it ends when we embrace the wider world and re-join it as an equal and valued member of society.

Below is a formula that encapsulates the essence of the recovery process. Did you notice it says nothing about substance use? Good. Recovery is about so much more because we are worth so much more. We are not defined by our substance use. We are defined by who we are and what we do, by our determination to live the life we choose. Simply really. Will someone kindly take the elephant for a walk?

written by Tim Sampey