There are several different definitions and uses of this term. In the addiction self-help recovery community, for example, this term refers to the achievement and maintenance of abstinence from alcohol, illicit drugs, and other substances (e.g., tobacco) or activities (e.g., gambling) to which the person has become addicted, vigilance and resolve in the face of an ongoing vulnerability to relapse, and pursuit of a clean and sober lifestyle.

In mental health there are several other forms of recovery. For those fortunate people, for example, who have only one episode of mental illness and then return to their previous functioning with little, if any, residual impairment, the usual sense of recovery used in primary care is probably the most relevant. That is, such people recover from an episode of psychosis or depression in ways that are more similar to, rather than different from, recovery from other acute conditions.

Persons who recover from an episode of major affective disorder or psychosis, but who continue to view themselves as vulnerable to future episodes, may instead consider themselves to be “in recovery” in ways that are more similar to, rather than different from, being in recovery from a heart attack or chronic medical condition. In this case, recovery may take place in the presence of an enduring illness or condition, rather than following on its absence. Many others will recover from serious mental illness over a longer period, after perhaps 15 or more years of disability, constituting an additional sense of recovery found in some other medical conditions such as asthma. More extended periods of disability are often associated with concerns about the effects and side effects of having been labeled with a mental illness as well as with the illness itself, leading some people to consider themselves to be in recovery also from the trauma of having been treated as mental patients.

Finally, those people who view taking control of their illness and minimizing its disruptive impact on their lives as the major concentration of their efforts might find the sense of recovery used in the addiction self-help community to be most compatible with their own experiences. Such a sense of recovery has been embraced, for instance, among some people who suffer from co-occurring psychiatric and addictive disorders who consider themselves to be in “dual recovery.”

For purposes of simplicity and clarity, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has adopted the following single definition to capture the common elements of these various forms of recovery:

“Recovery involves a process of restoring or developing a meaningful sense of belonging and positive sense of identity apart from one’s condition while rebuilding a life despite or within the limitations imposed by that condition.” [more…]