A New Definition of Recovery from Addiction

definition of recovery from addiction

A New Definition of Recovery from Addiction


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A new working definition of recovery has been released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The definition is simple:

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

Such a definition is designed to encompass all phases of an addict’s life. According to the working group that helped create this new definition, there are four areas that “support a life in recovery”:

  • Health: Managing one’s disease, and living a healthy life emotionally, physically and financially
  • Home: Creating a safe and secure place to live
  • Purpose: Participate in daily activities that provide a sense of purpose: volunteer, school, job, family caretaking, participate in society
  • Community: Relationships and social networking that give support, love, friendship, and hope.

Learning to live one day at a time with purpose, a sense of community, home, and health are not generally accomplished in isolation. While not all addicts in recovery participate in 12 Step programs, those that do often find the sense of community strong enough to help them through difficult personal times.

The worst thing a recovering addict can do is to isolate. When the addict is cut off from those who work to stay sober and clean on a daily basis, the valuable tool of perspective is stopped. What an addict thinks may or may not be accurate. The feedback provided by others is important, as is the ability to observe another individual struggling with life issues. Witnessing others’ problems can give a fresh perspective on the addict’s sense of trouble. Watching someone else deal with serious problems and staying clean and sober, can give the addict courage and strength. Learning to respond to life on life’s terms, as the expression states, gets easier with practice.

Each element of the new definition contributes to the addict’s ability to stay sober and clean, grow personally, and give back to the larger community.  In the long term, it is worth the effort.