To Each His/Her Own Recovery

So, I have been at home for the last few weeks, and will be for at least another week, RECOVERING from some medical care I needed.

This experience has gotten me thinking about about recovery and how it can have different meanings in different contexts.

My condition was taken care of through a medical procedure. I am free of the issue that needed to be addressed. I am recovering at home and once this time is complete, I will return to my typical activities. I will have recovered. This is the paradigm most people think of when they hear recovery. Recovery from an accident, recovery from an illness, etc. A discrete event occurred, and one recovers from it.

In the mental health arena though, people are often spoken of and describe themselves to “be in recovery.” It seems as though this is something totally different from my experience and yet, I know that that kind of thinking leads people to think in terms of “us” and “them.”

Recovery in the context of mental health is best summed up by the definition from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Recovery is a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential. There are four major dimensions that support recovery:

  • Health—overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms and 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 and having the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.
  • Community—having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love.

When I review the definition above and its dimensions, I wonder if there is so much that separates my experience from others who are in recovery.

My recovery allowed me to improve my health. I thankfully have stable housing and know the importance of it. I want to lead a meaningful life based on what is fulfilling to me and I relish the relationships I have that broaden my world.

Looked at this way it could be argued we are ALL in recovery, at least at some point in our lives. Therefore, there is a basis for each of us to understand and accept recovery as defined by that person. There is more that we have in common than not and yet, each person’s recovery is unique to them. Understanding that can bring people together.

Kate Mattias

Executive Director, NAMI Connecticut

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