9-8-2016 What is Recovery?

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
September 8  Agenda

 Opening Words

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.
Mary Oliver



Welcome to the UCE Addictions and  Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to be together in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

 Our Relational Covenant

  • Embrace and practice deep listening
  • We will strive to be respectful of our limited time and try to keep our comments focused on the issues that have brought us here.
  • Experience the group in a non-judgmental frame of mind.
  • Build trust within the group.
  • Confidentiality about specifics shared or discussed is imperative for our success.
  • We each take full responsibility for what we share or say, recognizing retractions are acceptable as well.
  • Meetings will always start and end on time.


Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Discussion: What is Recovery

Individuals who are “in recovery” know what it means to them and how important it is in their lives. They need no formal definition.

But for the general public and those who research, evaluate, and develop policies about addiction, recovery is a concept that can sometimes seem unclear. 

Essentially, recovery is a complex and dynamic process encompassing all the positive benefits to physical, mental and social health that can happen when people with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, or their family members, get the help they need.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) offers this definition:

“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”

Expanding on this definition, SAMHSA articulates twelve “Guiding Principles of Recovery”: 

  1. There are many pathways to recovery.
  2. Recovery is self-directed and empowering.
  3. Recovery involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation.
  4. Recovery is holistic.
  5. Recovery has cultural dimensions.
  6. Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness.
  7. Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
  8. Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude.
  9. Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition.
  10. Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma.
  11. Recovery involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community.
  12. Recovery is a reality. It can, will, and does happen.

What is Recovery?

Adapted from the National Consensus Statement on Mental Health Recovery from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within the US Department of Health and Human Services

Recovery is a term that can be defined in many different ways.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration defines ten fundamental components of recovery:

Self Direction
The individual decides for his/herself to seek recovery and actively searches for it.

Individualized and Person-Centered
The way to recovery that an individual chooses will be unique to that person’s strengths, needs, experiences, and cultural backgrounds.

The individual has the ability to speak for him/herself about what he/she needs, wants, and aspires.  The person has control over their own future.

Recovery covers all aspects of a person’s life.  Areas include mind, body, spirit, and community.  This can include: housing, employment, education, mental health and healthcare treatment and services, complementary and naturalistic services, addiction treatment, spirituality, creativity, social networks, community participation, and family supports.  Families, providers, organizations, systems communities and society play crucial roles in creating and maintaining meaningful opportunities for consumer access to these supports.

Recovery does not always happen in a consistent step by step basis.  There is continual growth, occasional setbacks, and learning from experience.  Recovery begins when a person realizes positive change is possible.  This helps the individual move on to fully participate in the recovery process.

Recovery focuses on building on the multiple capacities, resiliencies, talents, coping abilities, and inherent worth of individuals.  Building on such strengths gives the person the ability to engage in new relationships and interact with others in supportive, trust-based relationships.

Peer Support
Support through sharing experiences, knowledge, and skills with others going through recovery can help the individual as well as others by giving each other a sense of belonging, supportive relationships, a sense of value, and community.

Acceptance by the community, society, and systems, as well as appreciation of the individual – including protection of rights, elimination of discrimination and stigma – is a necessary step for recovery to take place.  Regaining self-acceptance and personal belief in one’s self are also necessary.  Respect means that the individual will be included and fully participate in all parts of his/her life.

Taking personal responsibility towards taking care of oneself and attaining goals is necessary for recovery.  Individuals have to try to understand their experiences and recognize coping and healing methods to promote their own well-being.

The message of a better future – that people can overcome hardships that occur must be internalized.  It is the motivation for recovery.  It can be inspired by peers, families, friends, providers, and others.

Recovery and Codependency

Codependency underlies all addictions. The core symptom of “dependency” manifests as reliance on a person, substance, or process (i.e, activity, such as gambling or sex addiction). Instead of having a healthy relationship with yourself, you make something or someone else more important. Over time, your thoughts, feelings, and actions revolve around that other person, activity, or substance, and you increasingly abandon your relationship with yourself.

Recovery entails a 180-degree reversal of this pattern in order to reconnect with, honor, and act from your core self. Healing develops the following characteristics:

  • Authenticity
  • Autonomy
  • Capability of being intimate
  • Integrated and congruent values, thoughts, feelings, and actions

Change is not easy. It takes time and involves the following four steps:

  1. Abstinence. Abstinence or sobriety is necessary to recover from codependency. The goal is to bring your attention back to yourself, to have an internal, rather than external, “locus of control.” This means that your actions are primarily motivated by your values, needs, and feelings, not someone else’s. You learn to meet those needs in healthy ways. Perfect abstinence or sobriety isn’t necessary for progress, and it’s impossible with respect to codependency with people. You need and depend upon others and therefore give and compromise in relationships. Instead of abstinence, you learn to detach and not control, people-please, or obsess about others. You become more self-directed and autonomous.

If you’re involved with an abuser or addict or grew up as the child of one, you may be afraid to displease your partner, and it can require great courage to break that pattern of conceding our power to someone else.

  1. Awareness. It’s said that denial is the hallmark of addiction. This is true whether you’re an alcoholic or in love with one. Not only do codependents deny their own addiction – whether to a drug, activity, or person – they deny their feelings, and especially their needs, particularly emotional needs for nurturing and real intimacy. You may have grown up in a family where you weren’t nurtured, your opinions and feelings weren’t respected, and your emotional needs weren’t adequately met. Over time, rather than risk rejection or criticism, you learned to ignore your needs and feelings and believed that you were wrong. Some decided to become self-sufficient or find comfort in sex, food, drugs, or work.

All this leads to low self-esteem. To reverse these destructive habits, you first must become aware of them. The most damaging obstacle to self-esteem is negative self-talk. Most people aren’t aware of their internal voices that push and criticize them — their “Pusher,” “Perfectionist,” and “Critic.”1

  1. Acceptance. Healing essentially involves self-acceptance. This is not only a step, but a life-long journey. People come to therapy to change themselves, not realizing that the work is about accepting themselves. Ironically, before you can change, you have to accept the situation. As they say, “What you resist, persists.”In recovery, more about yourself is revealed that requires acceptance, and life itself presents limitations and losses to accept. This is maturity. Accepting reality opens the doors of possibility. Change then happens. New ideas and energy emerge that previously stagnated from self-blame and fighting reality. For example, when you feel sad, lonely, or guilty, instead of making yourself feel worse, you have self-compassion, soothe yourself, and take steps to feel better.

Self-acceptance means that you don’t have to please everyone for fear that they won’t like you. You honor your needs and unpleasant feelings and are forgiving of yourself and others. This goodwill toward yourself allows you to be self-reflective without being self-critical. Your self-esteem and confidence grow, and consequently, you don’t allow others to abuse you or tell you what to do. Instead of manipulating, you become more authentic and assertive, and are capable of greater intimacy.

  1. Action. Insight without action only gets you so far. In order to grow, self-awareness and self-acceptance must be accompanied by new behavior. This involves taking risks and venturing outside your comfort one. It may involve speaking up, trying something new, going somewhere alone, or setting a boundary. It also means setting internal boundaries by keeping commitments to yourself, or saying “no” to your Critic or other old habits you want to change. Instead of expecting others to meet all your needs and make you happy, you learn to take actions to meet them, and do things that give you fulfillment and satisfaction in your life. Each time you try out new behavior or take a risk, you learn something new about yourself and your feelings and needs. You’re creating a stronger sense of yourself, as well as self-confidence and self-esteem. This builds upon itself in a positive feedback loop vs. the downward spiral of codependency, which creates more fear, depression, and low self-esteem.

Words are actions. They have power and reflect your self-esteem. Becoming assertive is a learning process and is perhaps the most powerful tool in recovery. Assertiveness requires that you know yourself and risk making that public. It entails setting limits. This is respecting and honoring yourself. You get to be the author of your life – what you’ll do and not do and how people will treat you.

Additional links

From National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence https://www.ncadd.org/images/stories/PDF/what%20is%20recovery.pdf
Study statistics for the above definition     http://argintranet.org/whatisrecovery/?q=node/6


Closing words

"Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences.
David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words   

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