Recovery defined

By David Joel Miller.

What exactly is recovery?

Should we describe someone as “In recovery,” “recovering” or recovered? What about resilience. Is it in any way related to recovery? This month SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) suggested a working definition for recovery.

The word recovery is commonly used when talking about substance abuse. Recently mental health has tried to incorporate wellness and recovery language into mental health programs. But it has long been clear that not everyone agrees about what is meant by recovery.

Trying to define recovery has always been a challenge.  Not the dictionary definition, which is relatively straightforward but not simple. Some common dictionary definitions of recovery include 1 A return to health 2 Return to a normal state 3 Gaining back something that was lost. The hard part was to explain what recovery meant when related to the issues of mental health and substance abuse.

Many people describe themselves as recovering. By that they mean they are struggling with a chronic progressive disease like alcoholism or drug addiction. The do not believe you are ever cured of a chronic disease condition and continue to remind themselves that at any moment they could experience a recurrence if they were to relax their vigilance.

Some people prefer the term “in recovery.” They believe that recovery is not a passive thing that happens to them but something that requires their active participation. They need to climb on board the recovery train and move towards their goal.

Some old-time AA members describe themselves as “recovered” and they point to the title page to the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” which states that the book is “the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from Alcoholism.” They further point out the book say that “we are not cured” but “have recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body.”  The thought that anyone could ever be fully recovered scares other people. They point out that accepting being recovered might lead someone to become careless and think that there is not more work to do on themselves.

SAMHS has suggested the following as a working definition for recovery:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential.

SAMHSA delineates four major dimensions that support a life in recovery, Health, Home, Purpose, and Community.

A resiliency researcher tried to explain the difference between recovery and resiliency as – Recovery is coming back from negative consequences and resiliency as the ability to continue to function despite traumas.

A short way to think of this might be – Recovery is the process of getting back to where you were, regaining your life and Resiliency is handling life on life’s terms.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at Thanks to all who read this blog.

If you enjoyed this post or think others might enjoy it please click on one or more of the “Like” or “Share” buttons on this page.


3 thoughts on “Recovery defined

  1. I have been co dependent for as long as I can remember. Getting back to where I was is not really a healthy place for me. Still, I enjoyed your post and education on recovery is always a good thing.


  2. Pingback: Why giving up the drugs and alcohol didn’t make you happy | counselorssoapbox

  3. Pingback: Getting some recovery – preventing relapse | counselorssoapbox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s