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Changing the Conversation

Recovery Benchmark: Sustaining Relationships

09/15/16 02:16 PM | Gloria Dickerson | Recovery

Recovery outcomes are valued goals of services throughout the nation. Relationships that empower and encourage choice and self-direction are hallmarks of all activities that support recovery. 

It is a beautiful Sunday morning. A friendly visitor is coming to my house today. She is a young person studying at a university in Boston. I am looking forward to our meeting. She is just starting out in life. I am in the older stages of life. When we are having coffee, I realize we are speaking the same language. The generation gap is not evident in our communications. She reminds me to be energetic and hopeful. She makes me laugh. She is a bright spot in my day. I trail off in my thinking…I wish I had family and children in my life. I am alone most of the time. I actually like my company, but occasionally I lament that along the path to recovery I did not construct my own family. I realize the importance of relationships and quality of life in promoting recovery.

Below is an excerpt from SAMHSA’s working definition of recovery.

“SAMHSA has delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

Health—overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms—for example, abstaining from use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications if one has an addiction problem—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.”

Recovery should always promote increased quality of life for individuals. Often, the benchmarks for successful recovery do not include measures of quality of life for individuals who are moving through the recovery process. I believe the “subjective or felt experience” of a person’s life is the most important benchmark of successful recovery. Read more of Gloria's thoughts on recovery from trauma & the importance of connection.

If I achieve all the milestones and meet the challenges of recovery, but my life is burdened by the “realization” that I am left managing my symptoms and moving through my day without love and sustaining friendships, my recovery is empty. It is a façade without substance. Too often, people living “within group home settings” or in “one bedroom apartments” live with the loss of real “connections” that nourish the soul. 

Recovery has to mean that quality of life has also increased along the path to recovery. The emptiness of life filled with treatment but without a legacy of loving relationships creates a “void” of profound loneliness that can swallow up hope. Isolation kills. 

It is my hope that in this month of recovery, we place high regard on helping people reclaim or find relationships that nourish and sustain. I hope that we do not lose sight of the people who are trying to recover a life worth living.

Within supportive housing, we have learned that getting a house is not enough. Recovering should mean happiness, satisfaction, and love. These are the real benchmarks of successful recovery.

How would your actions to support individual recovery change if quality of life was a valued benchmark of successful recovery?

Let's all work to promote nourishing relationships and keep up the great recovery work!

Learn more about recovery by listening to a t3 podcast "Youth Empowerment: From Active Addiction to Recovery."

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Image by Glenn Lascuna (CC BY 2.0). 

Gloria Dickerson

Written by Gloria Dickerson

Gloria Dickerson is a Recovery Specialist at the Center for Social Innovation. Her expertise in recovery derives from academic training and lived experience of recovery from trauma, mental illness, and homelessness. Gloria received a B.S. from Tufts University and has completed master’s level studies in Instructional Design and Psychiatric Rehabilitation.