Key takeaways:

  • Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition.

  • Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma.

  • Recovery involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community.

Recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction may seem like an abstract concept to some and has different meanings for different people. Each person in recovery may define the word slightly differently, but overall recovery is the process of overcoming and healing from an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Definition of recovery

While even researchers don’t agree on one specific definition, the most commonly agreed definition of recovery is that it is a process of overcoming an addiction or dependence on drugs and alcohol. [1, 2]

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) offers this definition: [1]

Recovery is a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential. There are four major dimensions that support recovery: [1]

Health - overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.

Home - having a stable and safe place to live.

Purpose - conducting meaningful daily activities and having the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.

Community - having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope”

Expanding on this definition, SAMHSA articulates twelve “Guiding Principles of Recovery”: [3]

  • There are many pathways to recovery.

  • Recovery is self-directed and empowering.

  • Recovery involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation.

  • Recovery is holistic.

  • Recovery has cultural dimensions.

  • Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness.

  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies.

  • Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude.

  • Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition.

  • Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma.

  • Recovery involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community.

  • Recovery is a reality. It can, will, and does happen.

Get help during covid-19

Get help during Covid-19

At Recovered, we recognize the impact COVID-19 has had and the continued challenges it poses to getting advice and treatment for substance use disorders. SAMHSA has a wealth of information and resources to assist providers, individuals, communities, and states during this difficult time and is ready to help in any way possible.

Speak to SAMSHA

Final thoughts

Recovery means different things to different people, but most people define it as overcoming their addiction. According to research, people who seek treatment have a better chance of overcoming their addiction and achieving recovery. Seeking help for an addiction is a great way to begin the process of recovery. [2]