Recovery: A Full Story

A look at the guiding principles of recovery, and what it takes to travel a successful journey.

What is recovery?

The working definition of 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.

Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Support Administration has mapped out four major pillars of life that need support in recovery:

  1. Health: Overcoming and managing one’s physical dependency and use of substances, making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional wellbeing.
  2. Home: A stable and safe place to live.
  3. Purpose: Meaningful daily activities and the independence, income and resources to participate in society
  4. Community: Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.

What are the guiding principles of recovery?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Support Administration has identified ten guiding principles for the path of recovery. Each is required for an individual to truly heal in recovery.

The ten principles include: hope, person-driven, many pathways, holistic peer support, relational culture, addresses trauma, strengths/responsibility, and respect.

Let’s look a little deeper as to what each of these guiding principles mean to one’s recovery journey. 

  1. Recovery emerges from hope. The belief that recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future. When hope is internalized it can be the catalyst of the recovery process.
  2. Recovery is person-driven. When self-determination and self-direction are the foundations for recovery an individual can be empowered to make their own informed decisions, define their own life goals and design their path to make their goals possible. This person-driven recovery builds on their strengths, and allows them to gain or regain control over their lives.
  3. Recovery occurs via many pathways. Recovery is not a straight path. Individuals have unique life experiences that affect and pave their pathway(s) to recovery. For this reason, recovery pathways are highly personalized and can include a variety of treatments including: professional clinical treatment; use of medications; support from families and in schools; faith-based approaches; peer support; and others. Recovery is a constantly evolving process, and having a support system is key to success.
  4. Recovery is holistic. Recovery has the best outcomes when it encompasses all aspects of an individual’s life. This includes mind, body, spirit and community. The array of services and supports available should be integrated and coordinated.
  5. Recovery is supported by peers and allies. Peer-based support groups and allies play an invaluable role in recovery. Peers encourage and engage other peers and provide each other with a vital sense of belonging, supportive relationships, valued roles and community. Peer-based supports and services provide important resources to assist people along their journeys of recovery and wellness.
  6. 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 such as family members, peers, providers, faith groups, community members, and other allies are vital support networks. Having a safe, supportive network of people allows individuals in recovery to leave unhealthy and/or unfulfilling life roles behind and engage in new roles that lead them to the person they want to be.
  7. Recovery is culturally-based and influenced. Culture and cultural background is a key piece to each individual’s personalized  journey and pathway to recovery. Recovery should be culturally grounded to meet each individual’s unique needs.
  8. Recovery is supported by addressing trauma. The experience of trauma is often a precursor to or associated with alcohol and drug use, mental health problems, and related issues. Recovery support services should be trauma-informed to build safety and trust for a person on their recovery journey while also promoting choice, empowerment, and collaboration.
  9. 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 something that is only possible when everyone does their part to support a culture of recovery.
  10. Recovery is based on respect. The ability to follow the path of recovery has a much higher success rate when our community, systems, and society have an acceptance and appreciation for people affected by mental health and substance use problems and are able to acknowledge that taking steps towards recovery may require great courage.

Unity Recovery Services is dedicated to continuing to evolve the definition and principles of recovery based on research, practice, and personal experience of recovering individuals. Our organization is dedicated to advancing the education of recovery and ensuring that support is available and accessible to all who need and want them.

Looking for more? Reach out to us today to learn more about our programming and services by sending us a message at