What Is Recovery?

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has defined “recovery” as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.

Recovery is built on access to evidence-based clinical treatment and recovery-support services for all populations. In addition, SAMHSA has identified four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

  • Health – overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms (e.g., abstaining from use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications) and, for everyone in recovery, making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being
  • Home – having a stable and safe place to live
  • Purpose – conducting meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society
  • Community – having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope

Finally, SAMHSA has identified the following Guiding Principles of Recovery:

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