Understanding the foundations of recovery from addiction

Contributing writerSeptember 18, 2013 

Is someone in your life ready to make a change?

At one time or another, many individuals become addicted to a medication, recreational drugs, alcohol, or nicotine. 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.

But if you or someone you love has made or considered the decision to quit using drugs or alcohol, now what?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has outlined four major dimensions that support a life in recovery: health, home, purpose, and community. The following are guiding principles of recovery.

Recovery emerges from hope: The belief that recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future – that people can and do overcome the internal and external challenges, barriers, and obstacles that confront them. Recovery is person-driven: Self-determination and self-direction are the foundations for recovery as individuals define their own life goals and design their unique paths. Recovery occurs via many pathways: Individuals are unique with distinct needs, strengths, preferences, goals, culture, and backgrounds, including trauma experiences that affect and determine their pathway to recovery. Abstinence is the safest approach for those with substance use disorders.

Recovery is holistic: Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. The array of services and supports available should be integrated and coordinated.

Recovery is supported by peers and allies: Mutual support and mutual aid groups, including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills, as well as social learning, play an invaluable role in recovery.

Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks: An important factor in the recovery process is the presence and involvement of people who believe in the person’s ability to recover; who offer hope, support, and encouragement; and who suggest strategies and resources for change. Recovery is culturally based and influenced: Culture and cultural background in all of its diverse representations including values, traditions, and beliefs are keys in determining a person’s journey and unique pathway to recovery.

Recovery is supported by addressing trauma: Services and supports should be trauma-informed to foster safety (physical and emotional) and trust, as well as promote choice, empowerment, and collaboration.

Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility: Individuals, families, and communities have strengths and resources that serve as a foundation for recovery.

Recovery is based on respect: Community, systems, and societal acceptance and appreciation for people affected by mental health and substance use problems – including protecting their rights and eliminating discrimination – are crucial in achieving recovery.

You or your loved one have made a very important and difficult decision. Take the next step and follow through in the decision to quit using. For more information and resources for drug addiction recovery, visit www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/sscd or contact Diana Cockrell at 360-867-2511, cockrdd@co.thurston.wa.us, or the Crisis Clinic 24 hours a day at 360-586-2800. For further detailed information about the new working definition of recovery or the guiding principles of recovery, please visit www.samhsa.gov/recovery.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or yud@co.thurston.wa.us, or @yu4health on Twitter.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or yud@co.thurston.wa.us, or @yu4health on Twitter.

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