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Mental health and substance use disorders and addiction are not uncommon experiences. They tend to affect not only the individuals struggling with the conditions, but they can also extend beyond that into family members and even strangers. Luckily, increasingly more mental health and addiction recovery treatment centers are becoming accessible to those directly and indirectly impacted by these conditions. 

When people commit themselves to recovery, they willingly choose to create a better life for themselves. They recognize that they no longer deserve to struggle through the distress their substance use or mental health disorder is causing them. It takes time to overcome hesitations and ambivalence surrounding any life changes, especially regarding recovery. 

Whether a person is going through detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or continuing treatment to maintain sobriety, it is normal for people to identify with the term “in recovery.” However, at what point can a person identifying with being “in recovery” transition to being “recovered?”

What Defines Recovery?

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains the working definition for recovery as a process of change where an individual works to:

  • Improve health and wellness
  • Live a self-directed life
  • Strive to reach their full potential

SAMHSA also describes four major dimensions that support the process of recovery. These dimensions include:

  • Health: This dimension involves overcoming or learning to manage diseases or symptoms of distress. It stresses making healthy and informed choices that support physical and mental well-being. 
  • Home: This level emphasizes the importance of having a stable, secure, and safe place to live. 
  • Purpose: Searching for meaning in life through daily activities is vital to recovery. Purpose also involves developing independence, financial stability, and taking advantage of community resources that allow you to participate in society. 
  • Community: This dimension involves interpersonal relationships and social support that bring friendship, love, and hope into your life. 

Among their definition, SAMHSA also provides 10 guiding principles of recovery. These principles include:

  • Hope
  • Relational
  • Person-driven
  • Many pathways
  • Culture
  • Addresses trauma
  • Holistic
  • Peer support
  • Strengths and responsibility
  • Respect

Recovery is more than becoming sober. It is important to remember that, even though there is a general definition of recovery, everyone’s recovery journey is unique. Some people may need to focus more on one of the four dimensions than others. 

Can Someone Ever Be Considered “Recovered?”

Recovery is a lifelong journey. Initial treatment can take weeks or months and may be the most transformative, however, the most intense challenge of recovery is maintaining long-term sobriety. Those initial stages will teach you how to secure recovery by breaking harmful habits, engaging in self-discovery, and learning how to manage cravings and triggers.   

The recovery journey varies by person. Some people can break active addiction in a few weeks or less, while others may still experience cravings for years after they quit using substances. Ultimately, “being recovered” is subjective. 

Eating disorders are one group of conditions where people commonly refer to themselves as being recovered. If someone says that they are in recovery from an eating disorder, it means they are in the process of recovering from it. On the other hand, if someone says they have recovered from an eating disorder, it means they are no longer consciously focused on changing their behaviors and have incorporated healthier habits in their daily life.

The Stages of Change

It is widely known that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to substance use disorders, mental health disorders, and addiction. However, there is a general cycle that can help to explain the various stages that people in recovery experience. These stages of change do more than explain the recovery process; they explain any changes in life.

These stages include:

  • Pre-contemplation: This is when an individual still considers their substance use pleasurable. They are not yet consciously thinking that their substance use produces negative consequences. 
  • Contemplation: When an individual begins to recognize that their substance use is producing consequences, they may start to seek a deeper understanding of their struggles and reasons for using substances. In this stage, they are beginning to contemplate whether or not they want to change their behavior.
  • Preparation: When an individual decides to commit to change, they begin to make conscious steps towards recovery and make any preparations before going to treatment. 
  • Action: When an individual is actively receiving treatment to alter their behaviors and work to turn around their life. 
  • Maintenance: This phase works to sustain long-term recovery. Change does not end with action and must involve a lifelong commitment to maintenance for true recovery to be achieved. 

People in active recovery for mental health disorders like addiction are considered “in recovery.” When does the transition from being “in recovery” change to being “recovered?” It is essential to understand the working definition of recovery, along with the dimensions and principles that guide the recovery process. Recovery is subjective, meaning each person has different recovery needs, goals, and experiences. You can evaluate the stages of change to help you recognize where you stand in your own recovery. West Coast Recovery Centers understands that, although recovery is a lifelong journey, it may be a confidence booster to identify with being recovered. Many people will continue to experience ongoing triggers and cravings, even years after treatment. We have valuable treatment interventions and continued resources to help you sustain lifelong recovery from mental health disorders or substance use. To learn more about our facility or treatment options, call us today at (760) 492-6509

West Coast Recovery Centers ( 370135CP), Valid through July 31, 2025
Jackson House Visalia (540056AP), Valid through May 15, 2025
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