What is recovery & how important is it?
NOTE: Quotes are presented word for word apart from minor editing for readability and clarity. Identifying details have been removed. Square brackets show text that has been added, e.g. ‘I want to maintain [my current level of drug use]’. Ellipses within square brackets […] show where text has been removed, e.g. ‘Counselling was good but […] I would have liked more information about other treatment options’.
Recovery is commonly defined as the process of getting better from an illness or otherwise returning to a state of physical and mental health. In some alcohol and other drug treatment settings, the term ‘in recovery’ describes those participating in, or who’ve completed, an abstinence-based treatment program, or those who attend self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. People working in the alcohol and other drug field have different views about the idea of recovery and there is little agreement about what it means and involves or how to assess it. Some question the concept altogether, asking whether it’s a useful way of understanding the experiences of people with an alcohol or other drug addiction, dependence or habit.
The people interviewed for this website express a range of views about the idea of recovery. While many don’t use the term ‘recovery’ to describe their own experiences, most share the view that it usually refers to giving up alcohol and other drugs altogether (see also Changing patterns of consumption), with several adding that it’s a gradual, sometimes lifelong process that requires persistence.