❝ a lifestyle unrestricted by alcohol, tobacco or drugs ❞

Recovery is another term which is used rather loosely. It is about 'normalising' life but whether it 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"

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):

What is NATURAL recovery?

Many people move in and out of problem substance use and overcome their addiction without taking up any kind of treatment. 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 with depression or with being unemployed or having poor housing, it is more difficult to get out of the addiction. Here are the kind of things that are likely to bring about change:

  • 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

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


See what you think of these selected YouTube clips...

The Key to Recovery from Alcohol & Drug Misuse (4:33) is a promotional cartoon but nicely describes the key phases of recovery: get some stability in substance use, deal with problems that accumulated while addicted, and build positive influences  🖥  View Now  

8 Essentials for Recovery from Addiction (5:39) is one North American therapist's view of recovery. He emphasises that recovery involves having a plan: building a strong support system for sobriety, and learning new life skills  🖥  View Now