When I use to run an outpatient substance abuse program, there were many standard phrases that we spoke often, such as, “How long have you been sober?,” “Do you have a sponsor?” or “I am in recovery.” What does that really mean to be in recovery? Were you hurt in an accident, and are you rehabilitating an injury? Were you recovering the old sofa that needed to be reupholstered? Are you saying you quit drinking or using drugs? I have been puzzled by this comment for many years. After much consideration, I arrived at my own answer of what is meant by the term recovery.
As an addiction becomes active, the addiction begins to take away some very important things during the progression. I remember one of my clients tell me that he use to go into the woods when his parents were not getting along, and he could forget about his troubles when he was under his favorite tree. He began managing his emotional life by turning off, isolating into the woods, and entering into an imaginary world, which worked very well at the time. Many years later, when he first tried using heroin, he told me that he finally found a way to go off into the woods under that tree, without needing to go there. Heroin became his safe place in the woods. He became dependent, and then his friend heroin began taking the things that he loved the most. His friend first took away lots of money, and also began to hurt his work performance. It began creating a wall in his marriage, and ate away at his value of honesty. Heroin chipped away at his self-respect, his dignity, his choices and his integrity. He woke up a few years later, realizing that he had just about lost everything that was most important to him. Financial disaster, broken marriage, little self-respect and lost integrity drove him to a place of deep hopelessness. This all started because he found a friend that could take him into the woods under his safe tree, without needing to go there.
What is recovery? Recovery is the process of re-covering all the things that are lost in active addiction. The tangible recovery is moving to a place of re-covering the finances, re-connecting and healing the damaged relationships and re-establishing a new professional reputation. The deeper re-covering is making choices that are in align with one’s values, thus restoring integrity. Rebuilding self respect through doing and saying things that are respectful to oneself and others and regaining hope are two other non-tangible characteristics, which are recovered. At our deepest level, recovery is recovering or uncovering our True Self, our Soul, or our Spirit. In others words, recovery is reconnecting with who we truly are at our deepest level. The common fear of this inner journey is that one will not like what he or she finds deep down inside, yet the opposite is true. At our deepest level is the gold at the end of the rainbow. At our core are goodness, love, enthusiasm and passion. As we journey through life, this core is covered up by the pain of life, and the addictive coping behaviors that mask not only the pain, but also the golden core.
What is the process of recovery? Simply put, it is containing our addictive coping behaviors, our Protector. Next, one needs to have the emotional wounds of life experience some healing, the Wounded Child, and third, one needs to uncover and reclaim the golden core inside, the True Self. When this process occurs, not only do you win, but also everyone around you wins. This process is simple, yet it requires a great deal of courage and faith to make this journey, perhaps the most exciting, fearful and fulfilling journey one can ever make.
In the bigger perspective, I guess everyone of us is in a process of recovering our soul. We are all searching for the peaceful place inside that is connected and yearns for life-giving expression. The unique aspect of those who make it into substance abuse recovery is that they are given a simple, yet powerful, formula for uncovering their soul. If the journey is taken, and one experiences the miraculous benefits of re-covery, this person often will say, “I am truly grateful for my addiction.”
So next time you hear someone say, “I am in recovery.” You can respond, “Recovery, I am in recovery also, and I sure do love what I am re-covering!”

Author's Bio: 

Dean Sunseri is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in Christian Counseling, Mental Health Counseling and Substance Abuse Counseling in Baton Rouge, LA and can be contacted at ds@ihaveavoice.com .

Dean Sunseri, MA, MEd, LPC
Professional Counselor