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What Is Recovery?

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or a mental health disorder, recovery is a really important concept.  Simply put, “recovery” is a term that is used to describe a way of living life after making a decision to overcome and manage an addiction.   Someone who is “in recovery” is living a life that is free from drugs, alcohol and addictive behaviors, with a daily focus on a solid recovery plan.  Having said that, it is important to know that recovery should not be “simply put.” Overcoming and managing addiction is so much more than sobriety.  Not unlike most things regarding addiction and mental health disorder, being in recovery is a deeply personal journey that is different for each person, so to define or describe “recovery” is quite challenging. The word recovery is generally defined in the the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: The ACT. The PROCESS.  Recovery is not a decision that is made and then quickly or easily achieved. Recovery is, as defined above, a “process” and will be a life-long, day-by-day journey for most people in recovery. Recovery is adopting new way of life, which is no small undertaking. It requires a profound dedication and daily focus to successfully adopt a mindset and practice behaviors that are entirely new.  It is a difficult and emotional process that will, for most people in recovery, end up being the most beautiful journey of their lives. Although each person’s recovery experience is unique, one theme that is constant in all recovery stories is that the decision to find recovery is the best decision they ever made. Not the easiest decision, not by a long shot, but without a doubt, the best. In Your Personal Experience, What Is Recovery? At our private treatment facility, every single day we have the incredible privilege of meeting people at the beginning of their recovery journey and helping them begin their life’s path toward health, meaning, and community.  Some of our own staff members are well into their recovery journey themselves and have made careers of helping others by becoming counselors, therapists or nurses specializing in addiction recovery. When asked “in your personal experience, what is recovery?” our staff responded with insight born of personal experience:

“Recovery began as a journey to stop the pain and degradation of addiction. It began to morph into a whole new lifestyle. It became a journey of waking up to new awarenesses on a continual manner that is still ongoing today.” ~Pat Mandryk, Addictions Counselor (29 years in recovery) “Recovery is a way of seeing, being, thinking & responding to normal stimuli, to life and life’s challenges appropriately. Recovery forms the person that we are and the person that we become.” ~Mark Sadler, Founder of Top of The World Ranch Treatment Centre (14 years in recovery) “Recovery is continuously working to be the best man I can be. Knowing that if I don’t keep focus on the fact that I am an addict…I am screwed.” ~Mike Niezen, Addictions Counselor (12 years in recovery) “It’s freedom from the obsessive thought and compulsive behaviour that ruins the life of the addict. Freedom from the shackles and chains of addiction.” ~Nikki Hemstad-Leete, MSW  Counselor (10 years in recovery) “In my addiction I was a prisoner. Recovery set me free. It taught me how to love, care, be happy and take it one day at a time. It taught me to never take anything for granted and it showed me a better way of life.  Today I can spread my wings and fly free far away from my addiction that almost killed me.” ~Rob Atamanchuck (5 years in recovery)

Five staff with five different recovery journeys and five unique responses.   The words used in these descriptions speak to the depth of emotion and connection that the process of recovery can provide: “Freedom”…”new awareness”… “continuous”… “set me free”… “focus”… “a way of responding to life”… “taught me how to love, care and be happy”… So, what is recovery? Recovery is a beautiful, difficult, powerful, empowering and personal journey that frees from addiction and allows life to be meaningful and healthy.  It’s a life-long journey that is worth every challenging and fulfilling step.   Stay tuned for next week’s blog: What Is The Difference Between Being Sober And Being In Recovery?