❝ a lifestyle unrestricted by alcohol, tobacco or drugs ❞


Recovery is another term which is used rather loosely. It is about lifestyle change but whether a 'normal' lifestyle means abstinence from alcohol and drugs is controversial. 


People in recovery know what it is about as do their family and friends. Experienced practitioners also know it when they see it. Defining recovery is a bit more tricky. The idea of recovery is an essential part of the twelve step movement and more recently has been taken up by policy makers as an important aspiration of treatment. The 🌐Betty Ford Institute is a world famous centre for research and treatment based on the twelve step approach and has produced this definition:

"Recovery from substance dependence is a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterised by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship"

What is NATURAL recovery?

Many people move in and out of problem substance use and most overcome their addiction without taking up any kind of treatment from professionals. The reason is that there are many different ways that people change their thinking and behaviour around substance use or other addictive habits. Most people get into addictive behaviours because they like them - when they stop liking them they start to think about change. For people whose addiction serves a purpose, for example it helps coping with depression or with being unemployed or having poor housing, it is more difficult to get out of the addiction.


People often move in and out of addiction before reaching stable abstinence or social substance use. Commonly cited trigger to change are:

  • An important relationship

  • A change of employment - especially if it brings more responsibility

  • Joining a religious group - especially if substance use is prohibited

  • Taking up activities incompatible with substance use - for example sport

  • Health problems

  • Growing out of it

What do service users, their family and friends say?
Key point :: abstinence is best for a serious addiction
Service users and their family and friends see recovery as having a lot to do with re-establishing positive and rewarding relationships. For any significant addictionn problem abstinence was seen as important including from prescribed substitutes.
What do stakeholders say?
Key point :: abstinence is important and so is wellbeing
Stakeholders, who included service users, their family and friends, health care workers and service commissioners, generalyy supported abstinence as a priority. They also saw all the other elements of recovery as important. The best road to recovery is going to depend on individual needs.

Scott Kellogg describes the importance of finding a new, non-addict identity for people who are overcoming addiction. The video is orientated to the US and illicit drugs but makes some good general points (3:25):

How do people CHANGE?

Moving out of addiction typically happens over a period of time which stretches from weeks to years - good treatment can accelerate the process but bad treatment can delay it. The business of changing thoughts about substance use starts when there are some concerns or, at least, some dissatisfaction with the addictive behaviour. Thoughts are followed by talk of change which may or may not be encouraged by family and friends - sometimes others have a vested interest in a person staying addicted. Finally there comes a real commitment to change. Things that are likely to help people to change are:

  • Emphasise that the problem is the behaviour not the person

  • Offer to work on the problem together

  • Encourage an achievable recovery plan

  • Get the person to talk about concerns

  • Boost self belief whenever possible

  • Encourage activities not associated with drinking, smoking or drug use

  • Encourage moving away from other people with problems