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What Recovery Means and How You Can Sustain It

A 2012 survey released by the the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) revealed that 10% of Americans aged 18 and older consider themselves to be in recovery for a drug or substance abuse problems. On a national level, that percentage reflects 23.5 million Americans who have been able to overcome their addiction and are now symbols of hope for those who are still struggling.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Recovery isn’t something you can just check off your to-do list–in most cases it’s an ongoing process that changes over time. Recovery research is just beginning to grow and researchers and treatment professionals believe there may be many aspects to recovery and a number of successful paths to get there.

In 2010 SAMHSA worked to develop a unified set of principles for recovery which include:

  • Recovery emerges from hope
  • Recovery is person-driven
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways
  • Recovery is holistic
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies (Peer Support)
  • Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks (Relational)
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced (Culture)
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma (Addresses Trauma)
  • Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility (Strengths/Responsibility)
  • Recovery is based on respect

(For more information about SAMHSA’s 10 principles for recovery, click here.)

Regardless of what recovery program(s) you find to be the best fit for you, a critical piece in sustaining recovery is creating structures that will help you when stresses or triggers arise that may cause you to relapse. Planning ahead and creating a network of support can include steps like finding friends that are clean and sober (and are less likely to cause you to fall back into your old habits), changing your environment, switching jobs, or even using methods such as meditation or spirituality for introspection and motivation to stay clean.

If you or someone you know is ready to seek help, has a rehab locator to help find resources in your area. The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.



How to Build and Maintain a Solid Support System in Recovery. (2010, May 17). Retrieved April 17, 2015, from
SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2015, from
Survey: Ten Percent of American Adults Report Being in Recovery from Substance Abuse or Addiction – Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. (2012, March 6). Retrieved April 17, 2015, from 

Photo Credit: Katie Hickey