What is Recovery?

What is Recovery?

We at Congruent Counseling Services have long believed that Recovery applies to both to Mental Health (MH) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD, or Substance Health (SH)).  People with depression or anxiety can “relapse” just like substance users: both issues can have deadly consequences.  This is more easily understood if you see the onset of a relapse not as the use of a substance, but as the return to unhealthy behaviors or thinking that lead to unhealthy choices and actions.


In other words, a relapse starts when a substance using person reconnects with old unhealthy friends and results in the use of the substance. Likewise, a person with bipolar depression relapses when they stop taking their meds or when they stop getting regular sleep resulting in mania or depression.  Similarly, relapse rates are higher among medical issues like weight loss (regaining weight), diabetes (not monitoring blood sugar or diet), or blood pressure (not taking medications or exercising regularly).  These are all relapses.  Relapse is a process that starts when a person returns to unhealthy or risky behaviors and ends when they return to a healthy recovery Life Style.

With this concept in mind, Recovery is a new, healthy Life Style that supports healthy living: daily activities and mechanisms that support not returning to an undesirable behavior or feeling.  For instance – using a substance, gaining weight, high blood pressure, depression or mania, etc. 

How recovery is achieved is individual to each person. 

Certainly similar issues may have similar support systems or similar ways of being.  Many recovering addicts may succeed with recovery housing or 12-step meetings.  Some succeed with cognitive behavioral therapy and attending church or getting involved in a community.  Most people, with SH, MH, or medical concerns need to recognize and address negative influences and drives.  We will argue that: recovery is the attainment of a Life Style that reduces the influence of negative thinking, negative people, and negative situations while increasing supportive environments with access to increased support in time of stress or change.  The hope is this Life Style leads to self fulfillment, self actualization, and healthy social connectedness.

Life Style

Please note that Life Style is capitalized here as it is a singular concept; a proper noun.  A healthy Life Style is different for each person, but all healthy Life Styles are the same.  They support healthy living; the attainment of goals and a sense of peace with a social connectedness.   A healthy Life Style may also incorporate a global good or “social interest”.  Adding such broad beliefs and goals provides a sense of purpose and well being.

Mark Donovan, LCPC, LCADC