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What is recovery? What’s important in helping a person achieve recovery and what’s necessary to sustain it?

These are the kinds of questions the experts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) put forth to over a 1000 behavioral health experts, people in addiction recovery and people with mental illnesses. Here’s what they found out…

The 4 Dimensions of Recovery

Recovery isn’t something that occurs in isolation from the rest of your life – to sustain the hard fought gains of recovery you must make progress and achieve some success in 4 key areas of life:

Health – You must work to overcome your disease and you must strive to live today and in the future in ways that support emotional and physical health.

Home – You must have a safe, sober and stable place to live.

Purpose – You must have some purpose to your daily life. Purpose may come from career, volunteering, family caretaking, creative pursuits or from many other things. You must also have the income and ability to participate in a normal way in the activities of your community.

Community – You must develop or nurture a social network of friends or family around you

The 10 Ideals of Successful Recovery

Recovery begins from within but it’s also strongly influenced by the people around you and the environment you live in. In an ideal world, your recovery is based on the following 10 principles of success.

1. You Believe That Recovery Is Possible

Unless you believe in the possibility of recovery and can generate some hope for a better future you’ll have a difficult time overcoming the bumps in the road intrinsic to any recovery journey.

2. You Define Your Own Goals and Choose Your Own Recovery Process

Ideally, you decide for yourself where you want to be and how you’ll get there. There are a lot of paths to success and many different ways to achieve recovery - but you’ll never get there unless you’re striving towards what you really want.

3. You Understand That There Is No One Right Way

Just as no two people are alike no two recovery journeys will follow the same path.

Your history, your cultural background, your health, your motivation and desires and a thousand other things influence your unique needs. What worked for someone else might not work for you. Follow your heart and find something that feels right – but remember, for people with substance abuse disorders, abstinence is usually the best course of action, no matter how you decide to get there.

4. You Integrate Your Recovery into Everything in Your Life

You know that your recovery is not something you separate from the rest of your life. You integrate your recovery into the way you take care of your mind, body and soul and it factors into every important decision you make, from where you live, to what you do for a living to who you spend your time with.

5. You Make Use of the Strength, Support and Expertise of Others Also in Recovery

By involving yourself with support or self help groups with others also in recovery you take advantage of shared knowledge and experience about what works and what doesn’t from a group of people facing very similar trials and challenges.

6. You Make an Effort to Surround Yourself with People Who Support Your Recovery

One of the toughest parts of many people’s recovery journey is making sure to only surround yourself with people who believe in your recovery and act in ways that support it. These people will encourage your efforts and help you stay motivated when times get rough. People like this will try hard not to act in ways that jeopardize your recovery.

7. You Choose a Recovery Path That Fits With Your Culture and Values

Your actions need to make sense within your cultural environment and nothing in your recovery journey should contradict your deeply held values or beliefs. A recovery path which is not culturally appropriate is unlikely to yield long term success.

8. As a Part of Your Recovery – You Deal with Past Traumas

Leaving past emotional, sexual or physical trauma unexamined endangers your long term recovery. As a part of your recovery process you need to make sure that you work at achieving some closure over past traumas so that you can shed the anchors of the past as you move forward to the future.

9. You Make Full Use of Resources within Yourself, Your Family and Your Community

To sustain recovery you need to make full use of all resources and support, be they at the individual, family or community level.

Examples could include taking a sabbatical at work to focus on recovery, making use of child care assistance offered by a sibling or enrolling in low cost community skills or interest courses arranged by your municipal government. What you have and what you need will vary greatly, but what’s important is that you put your recovery first and do everything you can to get all the support you can.

10. You Find the Respect You Deserve

A lack of respect imperils the recovery process. You deserve respect so make sure you surround yourself with treatment professionals, friends and family that grant you what you deserve. Though you have a disease you do not deserve discrimination or stigma. Strive to protect your equal rights to respect and fairness and if you cannot prevail against those that discriminate extract yourself from these unhealthy environments.1

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Page last updated Jun 23, 2012

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