What Does it Meant to Be in Recovery?

An estimated 22 million Americans among every gender, race, and social class are currently in recovery. For those in recovery, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation but one completely unique to one’s life experiences and circumstances.

What does “in recovery” mean?

It’s a common misconception that abstinence and sobriety alone equates to being in recovery. The definition provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is as follows: 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.” While in recovery, it’s important to also recognize the significance of focusing on one’s physical and mental health. Continued success is more likely once an individual has gained insight regarding any unresolved trauma, or underlying emotional and mental health issues in order to better understand how these factors may have impact on their recovery process.

Recovery varies by person, but may include:

  • 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
  • In-patient treatment, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) or an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
  • Avoiding triggering situations
  • Meditation and prayer
  • Regular counseling sessions
  • Trying a new hobby or resuming an old one
  • Building strong + positive support systems
  • Being physically active on a regular basis
  • Developing structure and routines
  • Focusing on nutrition, sleep, and stress management

How do I support a loved one in recovery?

When you discover that a friend or loved one is in recovery, you may be nervous or unsure of how to act or speak around them. Remember, people in recovery are humans just like you! If someone discloses that they’re in recovery, you can say the following:

  • “How’s it going?”
  • “I’m proud of you!”
  • “That’s great! You deserve to live a happy and fulfilling life.”
  • “How can I support you in your recovery?”

The statements above show your genuine support of their health. A simple phrase of encouragement and recognition can go a long way for someone in recovery. If someone discloses that they’re in recovery, avoid the following statements:

  • “You don’t look like an addict.”
  • “How do you know you’re an addict?”
  • “When did you hit rock bottom?” or “How do you know you hit bottom?”
  • “If you were addicted to drugs, can you still drink alcohol?”

The statements have the potential to result in hurt or upset feelings for a person in recovery. While you may be curious about their recovery process, it’s essential to allow the person in recovery to share their perspective on their own terms.

Health Affiliates Maine continuously strives to address the stigma associated with mental health and substance use. We work to increase access to supportive services for all Mainers so that they have a successful journey to recovery. We have a network of counselors, LADCs, and community resources (such as our telehealth IOP) that aims to help anyone in need of treatment. While you can’t force anyone to get help (only they can make that decision), you can offer validation and encouragement. If you’re equipped with resources and education, you’re already supporting them in their journey to recovery.

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!