What Is Recovery?

When discussing mental health and addiction, part of the conversation is often “recovery.” A person battling a mental health disorder or substance use disorder ultimately has the goal of recovery. What exactly does addiction recovery mean? Substance use disorder recovery is not just abstinence or sobriety. 

Recovery is not a cure or a finish line. Recovery is a lifelong process a person goes through to achieve overall wellness from alcohol or drug addiction.

Recovery Definitions and Why Recovery is Important

A common working definition of recovery is the process of getting better from an illness or returning to a state of mental and physical health. In some drug and alcohol treatment settings, “in recovery” is used for those who have completed or are participating in an abstinence-based treatment program, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. Some people who work in the drug and alcohol field question the idea of recovery and whether it is a useful way to understand the lives of people with a dependence on alcohol, drug use, or addiction. 

Recovery means something different for every person and as individuals improve during their recovery their strategies may change.


Recovery Through Abstinence 

Recovery looks different for every person, but the keyword for recovery is “process.” The process requires ongoing management and engagement and is not the same as sobriety. It is so much more. A person in recovery abstains from alcohol and drugs while actively managing relapse triggers, fulfilling self-care, rebuilding relationships, developing responsibilities, focusing on mental health, regaining control over their lives, and setting future goals.

Recovery, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “states that a person experiences a dramatic shift in the process of being in recovery. Recovery encompasses positive outcomes and values to become part of a voluntarily adopted lifestyle.” 

Key Components of Recovery


The most important part of recovery is the person’s health. This involves the management or overcoming of one’s disorder. Those working towards health and wellness live a life of 

making healthy choices supporting their emotional and physical well-being. 


To be successful and see positive changes throughout the long-term recovery process, the person must have a stable and safe place to live. This could be a long-term residence or a sober living home while they transition out of treatment.


Someone in recovery tends to find better success when they develop a greater meaning in their lives. This can occur by taking care of family or going to school or work to experience mental fulfillment. It can also involve the pursuit of hobbies and creative endeavors. Purpose can be fulfilled when someone can live a self-directed life and strive towards earning and managing their own income. 


A person’s recovery will proceed more smoothly with the help of a strong support network. They should have family members, friends, and relationships that provide support, friendship, and encouragement throughout the recovery process from a substance use disorder.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration set forth the following guiding principles for a person’s successful recovery journey toward a contributive life:

  • Hope and belief that mental health conditions will be overcome
  • Holistic modalities that address the community and the person, including faith-based approaches 
  • Self-direction and self-determination toward one’s goals
  • Handling negative feelings and making new friends with encouragement from allies and peer support groups 
  • Diversity and culture are embraced and recognized
  • A sober support mentorship and network
  • Respect for one’s self, as well as others in the community
  • Trauma-informed approaches for people facing histories of trauma or abuse
  • Responsibilities and strengths, including coping abilities
  • Multiple recovery support pathways
  • Self-help groups to encourage self-determination 

Achieving Recovery 

Recovery can be achieved through substance abuse treatment centers, specialized mental health facilities, or clinical treatment. The process for everyone is different, even in treatment settings. When a person enters addiction or mental health treatment, clinicians work with them to develop customized treatment plans that cater to individual interests, goals, and needs, as well as gender, age, mental health history, drug of choice, history of trauma, and much more.

Evidence-based therapies are effective in treating substance use disorders and mental illness for a fulfilling recovery lifestyle.

Recovery is Within Reach

Your recovery is just a few steps away with the help of Synergy Mental Wellness. Contact us today using our online patient form to begin your recovery with our psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.