What is Recovery?

Recovery is an on-going positive transformation focussing on the individuals strengths & aspirations that enhances meaning, purpose & wellbeing.

By nature, people are multifaceted, idiosyncratic and dynamic and are not separate from but are embedded in communities.

Published in October 2012, the final report from the UK Drug Policy Commission, ‘A fresh approach to drugs’ defined recovery as;

“Recovery from problematic substance use is a process that involves not only achieving control over drug use, but also involves improved health and wellbeing and building a new life, including family and social relationships, education, voluntary activities and employment. While the individual is at the heart of recovery, their relationship with the wider world – family, peers, communities and society – is an intrinsic part of the recovery process. Recovery is neither an easy nor a linear process and takes considerable time and effort to achieve and sustain, both for individuals and hard-pressed communities.”

It went on to say;

“.. there is a risk that narrowly focusing on achieving abstinence from drugs does not make sufficient use of the evidence of the cost-effectiveness of a wide range of interventions and the need for flexibility and personalisation in service provision to accommodate the different needs of individuals. In short, one size does not fit all.”

In a nut shell recovery will;

  • Be different for each individual
  • Involve changes in multiple areas not just in substance use
  • Involve other people and communities and;
  • Might not mean abstinence

Changes in multiple areas, other people and communities

Learning how manage stress, to have fun and constructively fill your time are as important as controlling drug or alcohol use. Finding friends who can support you went you’re down or who can share the good times is also a vital part of recovery. To help facilitate this recovery groups have been established throughout the services we deliver.

Many of the recovery groups developed out of group programmes being run by staff which have evolved into the hub around which recovery communities have developed. These include recovery cafes and the annual Recovery Games which brings together people to celebrate recovery


Recovery communities are groups of people affected by drugs and alcohol who come  together to provide mutual support and encouragement. The community provides a  welcoming environment where its members are safe in the knowledge that no one is  judged because everyone has ‘been there’. As a part of such a community, members  draw a sense of strength and belonging and are able to reach out to others still suffering  from addiction. In short a network of friends is developed which can support and sustain  recovery.

Services may come and go but a recovery community based on voluntary friendships  and the bond of shared experiences and goals will endure. Creating networks which  include contacts within the wider community are important. For instance, working on an  allotment is a way of making friends and contact with others. Projects like this help re-  integrate people back into society and help society to welcome and accept them back.

Making recovery visible helps give hope those who perceive themselves to be alone and helpless. Reaching out to people with a message that they are not alone and that recovery is possible is a powerful thing best done by those who are in recovery themselves. To this end we set up the Recovery Diary.

Visible recovery also helps ‘normalise’ recovery for the local community as a whole. It helps promote the understanding that people in recovery are not separate from but are a part of the community and have a valuable contribution to offer. This in turn promotes and supports the reintegration of people in recovery. There are many activities across our services which help raise the visibility of recovery, from jumble sales to recovery walks and events.

Sustaining Recovery

There is strong evidence that a persons health is intimately tied to their Wellbeing. This applies to everyone on the planet, it is not just for people with substance misuse problems. The 5 Ways to Wellbeing are used to support sustainable recovery and as a tool for life which applies to everyone. An outline of what this is and the evidence can be read here Five_Ways_to_Wellbeing040711