Recovery is a fascinating new topic in the mental health field. Perhaps, in some ways it is not new, but it is certainly becoming the focus of more and more professionals. Recovery is so exciting and powerful that there is an entire new model of mental health treatment called the “Recovery Model”. My first job in this field was at a place called Recovery Academy, which was named after this concept and model.
Recovery comes from ideas first discovered by Alcoholics Anonymous back in the 30’s. They discovered two things, among others that are central to this movement. One of them is that no one ever stops being an alcoholic. One can be in recovery of alcoholism, but they don’t just stop having alcoholism. There are alcoholics who haven’t had a single drink in several decades. This discovery is controversial and many disagree. I am not an expert on alcoholism, but I know that this view is certainly true of mental illness in the vast majority of cases. We do not stop having a mental illness.
The other truth discovered by AA was that peer support is vital to recovery. How do people in AA stay sober? Among other things, they have a sponsor. The sponsor supports and encourages the sponsee and gives him the tools to stay sober in the long term. This is peer support. As I’ve mentioned and as is also obvious by the name of my blog, I am a Peer Support Specialist. This is what I do for a living.
People don’t want to be told by a bunch of professionals that have no idea what it’s like to have a mental illness, that they should be taking medications that make them feel miserable and are full of side effects. I don’t want to hear from someone who never dealt with anger how it is that I can overcome my anger. If you’ve never been depressed, then I don’t really feel that I need your advice on how to handle depression. This is the beauty of peer support.
So Recovery involves knowing that illness is lifelong and it involves peer support, but what is it? Recovery is a new life. Recovery is living the way we want to live, having overcome our illnesses. Truly, if you ask 10 different Peer Support Specialists what Recovery is, you’ll get 10 different answers because part of what Recovery is is that it’s up to the person in Recovery to define it.
Where does Recovery start? The answer to that, in my opinion, is easy. Hope. Recovery starts with a sense of hope. Hope is the candle the lights the fire of Recovery. Just a little bit of hope can be fanned into a giant Recovery story. After finding hope, we find our strengths, and base our approach to wellness on those strengths. One of my strengths is intellect. I can understand many things very well and so I dove into introspection and learned everything I could about myself. Another strength is determination. I am a fighter and I never stopped fighting for my own wellness. I may have taken some breaks and almost given up, but I always return to the fray to move further toward wellness.
Recovery is person centered. I define my recovery. Not you, not my parents, not my doctor, nor any other professional. I define it. My goals are my goals. Note that none of my goals are to be compliant with what professionals tell me. I decide. In the same way, I don’t define the goals for anyone else I serve. I may have a good idea what can help, and I may have access to tools which I can offer them, but their life belongs to them. I am a helper, not a commander.
I could go on about what Recovery is, but this is getting tl:dr length already. Perhaps I’ll talk more about Recovery and what it has meant for me in the future. In the meantime, let me know what you think. What does Recovery mean to you?